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Representatives of the sealing industry deplore the decision to hold a Canada-European Union summit in Newfoundland without making the embargo on seal products a priority subject.
Introduced by the European Union in 2009, the ban on the trade in seal products, based on ethical concerns, deprived thousands of Canadian hunters of their most important market. The industry, especially present in Newfoundland and the Far North, never recovered.
Not addressing the thorny issue of seals during the two days of bilateral meetings, Thursday and Friday, in Saint John, would send a message of complete lack of regard for coastal populations, says Gil Thériault, director of the Association of Intra-Québec Seal Hunters. It sends a terrible message.
According to groups representing Canadian hunters and processors, the embargo is the result of a very effective campaign by animal rights groups, which portrayed their livelihood as an inhumane massacre, when it was actually a slaughter. acts, according to them, a sustainable hunt, exploited without cruelty.
These laws are based on propaganda, protests Jim Winter, former president of the Canadian Sealers Association, emphasizing that the contrast of red blood on white ice floes allows for shocking images. The ban continues for so-called moral reasons, but has nothing to do with reality, maintains the man who has already campaigned before various parliaments in Europe to have the embargo invalidated.
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Jim Winter is the former president of the Canadian Association of Sealers, an organization representing seal hunters in Canada.
< p class="StyledBodyHtmlParagraph-sc-48221190-4 hnvfyV">Dion Dakins, president and CEO of Carino, Newfoundland's only remaining seal meat and products processor, acknowledges there have been concerns in the past about the sustainability of the seal hunt – including concerns detailed in a report (New window) published in 2005 by a group of independent veterinarians.
He maintains, however, that the industry has reviewed its practices and has since become professional. Numerous reports demonstrate that hunting, scrutinized for years, is ethical, he explains.
Canada has responded to criticism, we have improved our practices, says Dion Dakins.
European Union officials spoke to the media on Wednesday , on the eve of the summit between the Prime Minister of Canada, the President of the European Commission and the President of the European Council. They listed the most important topics that will be discussed during the meeting in Saint John, but made no mention of the seal hunt.
In response to a question from Radio-Canada, officials indicated that discussions on the trade in seal products could take place, but that it would not This is not a priority issue.
Radio-Canada asked the Prime Minister's Office if Justin Trudeau would discuss the embargo during the summit. Our request was redirected to the office of the Minister of Fisheries, who did not say whether the seal hunt will be discussed during the meeting.
Gil Thériault also points out that the decline of the sealing industry has led to the explosion of the animal's population off eastern Canada. The presence in numbers of these carnivorous marine mammals threatens several species of fish, according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.
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Gil Thériault is director of the Association of Intra-Québec Seal Hunters.
One of the main factors in the non-recovery of stocks is the surplus and overpopulation of seals. We have American plaice, yellowtail, herring, mackerel, cod, we have a whole list, says Gil Thériault.
There are approximately 11 million seals off Eastern Canada today. What impacts could they have on commercial stocks in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nunavut and Quebec? adds Dion Dakins.
The latter states that the number of seal landings has decreased significantly in recent years. In 2023, there will only be 40,000 landings. In 2008, before the ban was put in place, there were 218,000.
According to Dion Dakins, there are only 2,000 people left who actively participate in the seal hunt.
If the [EU] ban is having such a significant impact on the sustainability of commercial fisheries these days, perhaps now is the time for Canada and the European Union to sit down together and discuss it, he says.
Shane Mahoney, director of the Conservation Visions organization and former head of wildlife research at The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador believes that markets still exist for seal products. However, he adds that the longer the ban continues, the more the industry loses the workers, skills and knowledge it needs to recover.