Nfld. & Labrador

Defending N.L. seal products; gift shop manager makes it her mission

The manager of a Newfoundland gift shop is trying to change minds about the seal hunt — one person at a time.

Teresa Prince says she can barely keep up with demand for sealskin items

Teresa Prince shows just a few of the many sealskin products available at the Dock Marina in Trinity. (CBC)

The manager of a Newfoundland gift shop is trying to change attitudes about the seal hunt — one customer at a time.

Teresa Prince manages the store at the Dock Marina in Trinity.

She sells almost any sealskin product you can imagine, from sneakers and mitts, to jewelry, purses, hats and wallets.

If customers hesitate over their sealskin purchase, Prince is right there to tell the story of the Newfoundland and Labrador seal hunt.

"You shouldn't have a problem with it because it's a way of life here for hundreds of years, we've hunted seals, and it's not done in an inhumane way," Prince told CBC's The Broadcast.

"The seal hunt is not like it was, say, hundreds of years ago. We don't kill baby seals."

Prince said the demand for sealskin products is growing.

"I can't keep it on my shelf. Every week I'm ordering sealskin products and I carry from six or seven different suppliers here in Newfoundland," said Prince.

Tourists from all over the world love the products, according to Prince.

"They just think it's so beautiful and the fur, they can't get over the fur. It's the most beautiful fur, they say, that they've ever seen. Everybody wants to buy the products — Canadians, even Americans."

As soon as visitors arrive at the Dock Marina, Prince said they make a beeline for the sealskin products.

"Bus tours, as soon as they're in the door, people are looking for sealskin products. Do you carry sealskin products? Do you have sealskin wallets and purses?"

Most tourists from the United States have no idea they're not permitted to take sealskin products back into their country. When Prince explains the situation, she said they're flabbergasted.

"They're like shocked, 'Why not? We don't have a problem with it.' They want to buy it. They say, 'We'll take our chance. If we lose it, we lose it. We want it,'" said Prince.

"One lady, she bought a pair of the sealskin sneakers. She said, 'I'm taking my chance. I really want them and I'm going to take my chance.'"

Spreading a positive message

And make no mistake, Prince said the beauty and quality of the products and her "chat" explaining how sealing is carried out in the province, is making a difference with some reticent buyers.

Prince said one woman who was hesitant ended up buying four pairs of slippers.

"Like the lady with the slippers, she was sort of iffy. But once you talk to her and explain to her, well she ended up buying five, six hundred dollars worth of sealskin products."

Prince also leaves her customers with a request.

"I said, well you got to get your country, you got to send messages to your country that you support the seal industry in Newfoundland. So hopefully some of them will do that."

Prince believes she's on the front line, trying to sway public opinion on the seal industry.

If she can change even one person's mind about the seal hunt, she said that's a good thing for Newfoundland and Labrador. If she can change more minds — well, that's even better.

With files from Jane Adey