Seals as Manure? Old ideas still won’t work in the 21st century

TORONTO, Dec. 20, 2023 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The Animal Protection Party of Canada has sent an open letter (available on request) to the Hon. Gudie Hutchings, Minister of Rural Economic Development and Minister Responsible for Atlantic Canada Opportunities. It objects to comments she made to the media following the Canadian-EU summit in St. John’s, in late November, where she opined that seals could be used for fertilizer and livestock food. Barry MacKay, Animal Protection Party’s General Manager says, “It struck a chord with conservationists because that is exactly what was done with North America’s most abundant species of bird – before they became extinct.” The bird was the passenger pigeon, once numbering in the billions and gone by 1914, before there was a current level of understanding of wildlife population dynamics, and protective measures could be legislated.

But those excuses do not apply to modern times, when the same cavalier attitude toward Canada’s native wildlife led to excessive overfishing of the capelin, a small, herring-like fish who once numbered in the multi-billions in the waters around Newfoundland and Labrador. The capelin is not extinct, but their numbers were driven to a fraction of their former size, and yet they’re near the bottom of indispensible food chains that sustain numerous species of marine-life, ironically including the Atlantic puffin, the “official bird” of Newfoundland and Labrador. The puffin depends upon capelin for survival, and has, of late, been found to be starving for lack of these small fish, used for fertilizer and livestock food.

A few weeks after writing the letter, the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada, issued a re-assessment of numbers of harp seals in Atlantic Canada, (Tinker, M.T., Stenson, G.B., Mosnier, A., and Hammill, M.O. 2023. Estimating Abundance of Northwest Atlantic Harp Seal Using a Bayesian Modelling Approach. DFO Can. Sci. Advis. Sec. Res. Doc. 2023/068. iv + 56 p., Dec., 2023) that indicates the figures used by advocates of the commercial hunt of harp seals may be several million more animals than there really are.

“This is a region heavily impacted by the collapse of northern cod stocks. The collapse occurred when politically-driven quotas ignored scientific advice and that of inshore fishers. Instead, politicians servicing greed-fueled demands of the fishing industry set a quota that was too high, which ultimately led to a moratorium being imposed in 1992”, continued MacKay. Harp seals must have viable sea ice in the right place at the right time to successfully produce the next cohort, and that is extremely uncertain in this, the warmest year recorded in human history.
The letter stated: “It is ironic that the effects of climate change, increasingly evident and costly, derive in such large measure from our inability to adapt our own behaviour, values, and attitudes, toward our relationship to the environment. We are particularly concerned that both you, and the Prime Minister, displayed a lack of understanding of the dynamics of predator-prey relationships, the inherent complexity of marine food chains, and the risks to human society of the current rate of decline in biodiversity and wildlife.”

“Our government can, and must, do better”, says MacKay.

Barry MacKay
General Manager
Animal Protection Party of Canada