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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Deadly warming cools seal hunt

The following was written by a Washington Post columnist and appeared as well in the Chicago Tribune. Finally the mainstream media across Canada, the U.S. and the world have been given a chance to see what a balanced, well researched and well written account of the annual seal harvest should look like.

This article presents both sides of the debate clearly. The writer doesn’t try to slant the story by only presenting the pre-conceived ideas, misinformation and stereotypes so commonly spread by the anti-sealing movement.

Well done.

Deadly warming cools seal hunt

By Doug Struck
The Washington Post
Published April 5, 2007

TORONTO -- Hunters and animal-rights activists face off on the ice this week as Canada's annual seal hunt begins, but a succession of unusually warm winters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence already has drowned thousands of the animals.Canadian authorities reduced the quotas on the harp seal hunt by about 20 percent after over flights showed large numbers of seal pups were lost to thin and melting ice in the lower part of the gulf off Prince Edward Island.

"We don't know if it's weather or climate. But we have seen a trend in the ice conditions in the last four or five years," said Phil Jenkins, a spokesman for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. "The pups can't swim for very long. They need stable ice. If the ice deteriorates underneath them, they drown."

Rebecca Aldworth, an activist for the Humane Society of the United States, flew over the area this week. "We should have seen vast ice fields but we saw only a few floating ice pans," she said. "We should have seen thousands of seal pups but we just saw a few."

Jenkins said only two of the usual fleet of about 40 seal-hunting boats ventured into the southern gulf when the hunting season opened Monday. "There weren't many seals there to hunt," he said.

In the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence and along the Labrador Sea, ice conditions were normal and the hunt was to start Wednesday with the now-traditional confrontation between hunters and people who oppose the hunt.

Canada set a quota of 270,000 seals for the hunt this year, down by 65,000 from the previous year. The hunters, most of them commercial fishermen from the seaside towns and villages of eastern Canada, get about $90 per seal for the fur and seal oil.

"All we are looking for is to go to bed with a full stomach and a tight roof over us," said Jack Troake, 71, a fisherman and seal hunter in the town of Twillingate, on Newfoundland's northern coast. He said he has been hunting since he first went out with his father in 1950. "We're coastal people, just hanging on by our fingertips. We need the seal hunt to make ends meet."

The economically depressed fishing towns depend on the spring seal harvest to pay bills and buy gear to start the crab and shrimp season, about all they have left after the cod disappeared, said Jim Winter, co-founder of the Canadian Sealers Association."

The real bottom line is that killing seals is no different than killing pigs or cows or lambs to sustain your family," Winter said from St. John's. "We are using the same methods they do in abattoirs," or slaughterhouses, he said. Most hunters shoot the seals, but some kill the animals with clubs. "Because this is out in the open, it's the Bambi syndrome run amok."

Aldworth, who has been watching seal hunts for the Humane Society and other organizations for nine years, contends that "year after year, people continue to see unacceptable forms of cruelty."

"This is a hunt of baby seals for their fur," she said. "Most of them are under 3 months, and many of them are under 1 month old. They are killed to produce fashion items."

The United States banned imports of seal products in 1972, and several European countries have moved to impose bans or restrictions. The Humane Society has promoted a boycott of Canadian seafood products to try to end the seal hunt.

Jenkins, of Canada's fisheries department, argues that these moves are a product of emotionalism."We've brought this seal herd back from 1.8 million in the 1970s to 5.5 million in 2004," he said from Newfoundland, where he was to monitor the hunt. "We look at this as a conservation success story. We feel very strongly we are going to keep this herd in abundance and keep it healthy."

Jenkins said the loss of so many seal pups this year in the lower Gulf of St. Lawrence was not unexpected, because of warmer weather. "Our scientists say that the 5.5 million population can sustain this kind of event, but it has to be managed" with the lower hunting quotas, he said.

Aldworth said the milder winters provide another argument for protecting the seals."We're going to see far higher levels of mortality," she said. "We can't control global warming in the short term, but we can control the hunt by ending it."


isdaby said...

excellent article, like you said, 'balanced'. Perhaps its a sign that recently stepped up efforts by industry and government, to present 'our side' are showing results such that even journalists in other countries realise there are TWO SIDES to the story.

Too bad more Canadian 'journalists' can't figure that out...

Anonymous said...

The Article below written by Walter Noel appeared in today's "The Telegram". Please take the time to read this great article, it is quite explanatory.


Equalization is sharing benefits, not generosity

April 9, 2007

Canada’s federal system confers costs and benefits. Equalization is the way the Government of Canada partially compensates provinces which are disadvantaged. Without it, the country would not exist because the disparity in benefits would be intolerable.

Ontario is not an equalization recipient because it has been the prime beneficiary in other ways. Quebec gains the most through equalization and ranks second in other assistance, such as the recent $900 million commitment to the aerospace industry. They have been the big winners because they control the House of Commons. They win through the concentration of business and government activities Ottawa bestows on them through national policies, subsidies and transfers.

The equalization compensation each province receives is determined by its fiscal capacity - its ability to tax. This may be a convenient formula, but is not an accurate measure of the relative economic health of provinces. Two could have the same fiscal capacity but much different levels of employment, debt, cost of providing services, etc.

Newfoundland and Labrador is on the verge of reaching Ontario’s fiscal capacity, but our economy remains far weaker. And taxing ability based on liquidating finite non-renewable resources is different from that based on renewable activities which continue producing indefinitely.

Ontario has not received equalization because it enjoys so many other benefits provided by Ottawa. Alberta is not presently receiving because its economy is doing well - as a result of its oil wealth. Unlike Ontario, its prosperity is not dependent on federal government favors. All the other provinces have been recipients, with Quebec consistently receiving the most, in addition to receiving the second highest share of other benefits. It only has 25 per cent of the population but will receive 33 per cent of all transfers this year.

New ways have to be found to better share the benefits of our federal system. The recent budget increased equalization payments, but also provides for other transfers more beneficial to the large provinces. The agreement to exclude non-renewable resource revenues from equalization helped the provinces affected, but, as a result of this budget, will in future be reduced by 50 per cent and capped. The combined changes will benefit Quebec most, and hurt Newfoundland and Labrador most.

Non-renewable resource revenues should not be included in the formula because they are different from other economic activities. All resources are capital assets, but non-renewables are finite. When they are depleted, when all the minerals or oil is gone, they will no longer provide jobs or revenues. They should not be treated the same as industries such as banking, farming and manufacturing which make Ontario wealthy, with Ottawa’s help.

Canada’s political history has been a fight for the benefits which would not exist if Canada was not a country. Ontario and Quebec would not be in the center of a country, they would not have the excessive concentration of government and industrial activities, and the rest of the country would not be their captive market. There would not be any vehicles built in Ontario; automobile manufacturing would not be the cornerstone of its economy. There would not be very costly financial assistance to help preserve the French identity.

The equalization program is either welfare, or it is an attempt to share the benefits of Confederation. If it is the former, as Ontario would have us believe, the recipients should be thankful for what they receive. If it is the latter, it should be equitable. Any proper study of Canada’s economy would demonstrate that it is the latter, and it fails to share adequately. Such a study would document just how much other Canadians contribute to Central Canada’s prosperity.

Years of equalization payments have not changed the fact that Newfoundland and Labrador contributes more financially to the country than it receives. The federal government might spend more than it collects here directly, but our contribution to the economies of other provinces far exceeds their contribution to ours.

We contribute through buying goods and services from Ontario and Quebec, instead of from other countries where they could be obtained more cheaply. We contribute our own taxes, in addition to those collected elsewhere because of economic activities we create. We contribute through exploitation of our resources, in particular through providing far more revenues for Quebec than for ourselves as a result of the Churchill Falls Hydro project - because Ottawa refused to enforce our right to transmit power across Quebec, or to compensate us for the loss. We contribute through the inflated food prices we pay to subsidize mainland businesses. We contribute through the enormous debt we’ve accumulated to finance the purchase of goods and services from Central Canada.

The country would cease to exist without equalization. Ontario and Quebec would be the biggest losers. The other provinces would be better off financially as independent countries or American states. As Americans, citizens of the smaller provinces would also have more say in national affairs through effective Senate representation.

The provinces which benefit least from Confederation made some progress in recent years through increasing their share of federal transfers and having non-renewable resource revenues kept out of equalization calculations.

Unfortunately, the latest Conservative budget reverses the progress made by these provinces. Prime Minister Harper is obsessed with winning a majority government. Voters in the large provinces of Ontario, Quebec and Alberta are the constituency he is courting. His recent budget initiatives to win votes in those provinces will be very costly for the others. The country needs more equitable sharing of the economic consequences of Confederation, but the Harper government is moving in the opposite direction.