At the same time that Ottawa trumpets a new deal to export seal meat to China as a breakthrough for sagging markets, a telephone poll is apparently being conducted asking Newfoundlanders how they would feel about a buyback of sealing licenses.
So much for confidence in the hunt.
A St. John’s man contacted me Wednesday to say he had been telephoned in recent days by a polling firm asking for his opinion on the seal fishery, including whether he would support the buy back of sealing licenses.
The poll lasted six or seven minutes, and the man (whom I’ve known for years) had no idea who commissioned it.
There's a chance seals could be responsible, but that's highly doubtful.
With so little ice this year there’s nowhere for the animals to set up a phone bank.
The seal deal with China is generally seen as a non-story, a deflection from more serious fisheries issues.
Why is it a non-story?
Just because China has agreed to open its markets to seal meat products, doesn’t mean the orders will pile up any time soon.
It takes years for companies to carry out product and market development, while, at the same time, animal rights groups will most definitely do their darndest to ruin potential markets.
Their powers of intimidation are considerable.
Just ask the sealers.
Here’s a quote Wednesday from veteran Twillingate sealer Jack Troake: “I’ve been called every conceivable thing that you can call a creature on this planet. I’ve been spit on. I’ve been threatened to have my brains beat out with a hakapik, my house burned down and my kids and wife barbequed.”
He doubts the seal fishery can be saved.
But then with so little offshore ice this year, there won’t be much of a hunt anyway.
So what are the feds trying to deflect our attention from?
Let’s see, a warning has been issued about how ongoing Canada/EU free trade talks could lead to even more foreign overfishing off our shores.
Would the Government of Canada derail trade talks over the Newfoundland and Labrador fishery?
Not a chance in hell.
The Stephen Harper Conservatives wouldn’t disrupt trade talks back in 2009 in the wake of a European ban on seal products.
Read the headline: Canada won't let seal ban 'contaminate' free trade talks.
And if they wouldn’t do it for seals, which are at least huggable, they certainly won’t do it for the lowly codfish.
Flipper pie is to Newfoundlanders what apple pie is to Americans.
The seal hunt is so sacred that any question of continuance is seen as sacrilegious.
Which is stupid.
Cod scientist George Rose had an interesting idea in the spring of 2008 when the European Union was considering a ban on seal products.
Rose proposed that if the EU ban went ahead, which it did, the Canadian government propose a counter ban on most foreign fishing on the Grand Banks.
Trading seals for fish is not about gaining more control over the Grand Banks, Rose argued, but giving fish stocks a chance to rebuild.
“Maybe it’s a way to get conservation organizations, and even extreme ones like the Sea Shepherd (Conservation) Society, on our side,” he said. “At the very least putting something like this out in the public will kind of smoke them out — I mean, are they really interested in conservation or not?”
I can tell you this, if we, as Newfoundlanders, voluntarily gave up the commercial seal hunt (what little hunt there is left) in exchange for a ban on foreign fishing on the Grand Banks and the elimination of NAFO — the useless, toothless entity that oversees fishing outside the 200-mile limit — the world would sit up and take notice.
And the NL fishery just might rise again.