Seal Hunting In Atlantic Canada Essay

1791 words - 7 pages

The annual hunt of harp seals (Pagophilus groenlandicus) in Atlantic Canada is contested at the start of nearly every season, with celebrities, politicians, and the public actively weighing in on the matter. Within all of the dialogue and debate, there can be a lot of bias and misrepresentation of facts advocating for or against the seal hunt. Thus, the true sustainable aspects of the industry are drowned out and lost due to the sheer amount of controversy surrounding the issue. Sustainability entails meeting the needs of today without sacrificing the needs of the future (“Sustainable Development” 1). The concept of sustainable resource development involves support pillars that represent economics, society, and the environment. Seal hunting, as it is practiced today in Canada, is indeed sustainable and should continue. The harvest is rooted in a cultural tradition that brings economic benefits to Atlantic Canada while maintaining due respect to the environment. An examination of these tenets, as well as criticism in opposition of the hunt constitute the body of this essay.
Sealing in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador has been occurring for hundreds of years and has become a mainstay in the traditional way of life for coastal communities and aboriginal peoples (“Facts” 1). Many jobs and commodities such as seal meat, oil, and hides arise as direct benefits to society through the seal harvest. According to the government of Newfoundland and Labrador, seal hunting “provides direct annual employment for over 6000 people on a part time basis” and provides employment at a time of the year when opportunities may be limited (“Facts” 1). The historical integration of seals in aboriginal heritage can not be discounted when considering seal hunting in its entirety. Complex socio-cultural relationships and behaviour with respect to the sharing of seal meat have been well documented in aboriginal populations of Eastern Canada (Wenzel 4). Contemporary dishes like seal flipper pie have also contributed to the cultural identity of Newfoundland society. As a result of these strong cultural ties, commercial and subsistence sealing continues to exist through legal policy by demand from both government and society. The policies that govern seal hunting are based on a sustained yield principle that does not compromise the harvest for future generations, and are thus in accordance with sustainable aspects of resource development.
Economic benefits gained from the seal hunt include an increase in trading relationships for Canada and the stimulation of the provincial economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. As reported by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the total landed value of the seal harvest for 2006 was $34.3 million dollars (“Market” 1). This figure represents a historic high, when market prices per pelt were favourable. Regardless, the money brought in from seal hunting is said to have a “trickle-down” effect on other sectors of the economy...

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