Just in time for the annual spring hunt, Seals and Sealing Network, a not-for-profit based in Ottawa, has launched a comprehensive website addressing the facts and fiction of the Canadian seal hunt and sealing industry.
Information on the physiology of different types of seals plus their conservation status (not at risk, endangered etc.), as well as harvesting methods and regulations are clearly laid out in an easy to navigate format.
Seal products and the culture that surrounds sealing on the East Coast and in Canada’s North are touched upon, but more information on folk traditions around sealing and some seal recipes would round this section off well.
The resources section is where the page shines. Links to studies, research papers on everything from loss of biodiversity to ancient arctic seals, government webpages, and pretty much anything seal industry related are broken up into convenient headings.
The site presents seal population statistics and discusses fish stocks, environmental stewardship, and management principles. A 2016 DFO statement says,”there is some evidence to suggest that the Northwest Atlantic harp seal population may be reaching levels close to its natural carrying capacity, which is the maximum number of individuals of a particular species that can be sustained by that species’ ecosystem.”
A well planned and sustainable harvest is of much more value than letting starvation and disease check populations, this page argues. Similar concerns exist about grey seals.
For the Inuit, the people of the seal, thousands of years of survival and culture in the North are deeply linked with the use of seal, one of the few resources provided by the harsh climate. With high Northern food costs and up to 70 percent of Inuit households food insecure, need is pressing.
“Nunavut seeks its place in world trade,” reads a release by the Nunavut government Department of Environment. “Inuit await the opportunity to share their resources and achievements to achieve a brighter future. The values of natural conservation and spirit of trade can go hand in hand. Unfortunately, regulations lacking a scientific basis for sustainable use remain an obstacle.”
Despite the weaponization of white coat imagery, the pups have not been hunted since the 80’s. Seals are neither endangered nor hunted callously.
Seals and Sealing Networks informational webpage aims to showcase sealing in modern terms; a sustainable, well-regulated industry, and an element of culture important to Northern food security.