Hay Is­land seal hunt called off

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CHRIS HAYES

SYD­NEY — Seal­ers in Cape Bre­ton no longer ex­pect to har­vest grey seals this year on Hay Is­land, where they are op­posed by hu­mane so­ci­ety ac­tivists.

Robert Court­ney, pres­i­dent of the North of Smokey Fish­er­men’s As­so­ci­a­tion, said Thurs­day seal­ers were count­ing on as­sis­tance from the Nova Sco­tia gov­ern­ment to pre­pare seal prod­ucts to meet the re­quire­ments of a buyer, but it didn’t hap­pen.

“They just backed out of the whole thing,” he said.“We needed them to make things work and any­way, they’re not there,” he said.

“As far as Hay Is­land, it’s ba­si­cally fin­ished for this year un­less some­thing hap­pens in the next day or two, but I don’t see it.”

The seal­ers won’t iden­tify the buy­ers.

Court­ney said he was dis­ap­pointed that the Hay Is­land hunt won’t go ahead, not­ing that there are likely few grey seal pups left on the is­land this late in the Feb. 8 to March 15 sea­son for the quota of 2,200 an­i­mals that was set by the fed­eral Fisheries and Oceans Depart­ment.

“Right up to yes­ter­day, we thought things were go­ing to hap­pen,” he said.

Hay Is­land is a rocky land­scape that is part of the Sca­terie Is­land Wilder­ness Area off Cape Bre­ton.

Greg Roach, as­so­ciate deputy min­is­ter, con­firmed that the Nova Sco­tia Depart­ment of Fisheries and Aqua­cul­ture has been work­ing with the seal­ers, buy­ers and other gov­ern­ment part­ners on de­vel­op­ing mar­kets for the seals but said the pieces didn’t fall into place in time for the Hay Is­land hunt.

“The har­vesters were iden­ti­fied, the pro­cess­ing buyer group were iden­ti­fied but we didn’t have the de­tails. We don’t just write cheques and let’s see what hap­pens. We needed a lit­tle more in­for­ma­tion and more part­ners in­volved.

“It was sort of a big prod­uct de­vel­op­ment, mar­ket de­vel­op­ment pro­gram and it’s the way to go.”

Re­becca Ald­worth of the Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional/Canada, which has been stand­ing by in Cape Bre­ton to op­pose and doc­u­ment the hunt, was pleased to hear the seal­ers no longer ex­pect to go to Hay Is­land this year.

“My first re­ac­tion is just tremendous re­lief that the pups we saw on Hay Is­land will ac­tu­ally have a chance to sur­vive this year,” she said. “It’s a very bit­ter­sweet thing to go out to such an in­cred­i­bly beau­ti­ful place and see such amaz­ing wild an­i­mals and to know ex­actly what is pend­ing for them, what th­ese seal­ers will do.”

Seal­ers may yet hunt for grey seals else­where in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Court­ney said.

Ding­wall sealer Pat Briand said they have their eyes on a more lu­cra­tive grey seal hunt but he wouldn’t give de­tails.

Ald­worth was skep­ti­cal about a hunt else­where in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, how­ever, say­ing it would be­come in­creas­ing dif­fi­cult as the days go by. She also ex­pressed doubts that mar­kets ex­ist for grey seal prod­ucts.

The pop­u­la­tion of grey seals in At­lantic Canada is cur­rently es­ti­mated at 300,000-plus, al­though a new count is be­ing con­ducted, he said. Fac­ing de­pressed mar­kets last year, seal­ers only har­vested 200 an­i­mals from Hay Is­land.

Euro­pean Union coun­tries gave fi­nal ap­proval in July to a ban on im­ports of seal prod­ucts in an ef­fort to force Canada to end its an­nual seal hunt.

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