Let’s not forget seals in the cod equation
My friend Jack Troake of Twillingate called the other day to engage in one of our periodic conversations, an always delightful gabfest where the topics usually range from medical updates (more frequently a subject as we both curse the aging process) to moose huntin’, from politicians to the forbearance of the women in our lives.
(I’m sure we also “tell a few lies,” the amusing but insightful way my late Uncle Bill Judge used to describe the exaggerated fashion in which Newfoundlanders converse: “Let’s go have a beer and tell a few lies, Bob,” Bill would suggest).
Jack and I also invariably recall the five days or so we spent together over a decade ago now (along with cameraman Ty Evans), a time when we established a lasting friendship while I was documenting the saddest event in Jack’s life, the tragic drowning of his son Garry, for a “Land and Sea” program called “Death of a Fisherman.”
(That particular year, 12 individuals employed in the fishing industry had been killed in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I was attempting to ensure their deaths weren’t relegated to some statistical file, a goal I thought might be achieved specifically through the telling of Garry Troake’s story, Jack and his family, their hearts broken, displayed amazing fortitude in helping me do just that. )
And, as is usually the case with these phone calls—the first time Jack called me here in Flatrock, I foolishly asked how he had gotten my number, and he replied, in his inimitably quick-witted and endearingly saucy way: “Ya know what, Bob, b’y, we got f--kin’ phone books in Twillingate”—the conversation invariably turned to seals.
Jack, after all, remains a legend of the seal fishery (as was Garry), and has no worries about being invited to any Greenpeace wine-and-dine receptions, not that he wouldn’t attend and tell all those hypocrites where to go and how to get there.
So, without any prompting from me the other day, he referred to that announcement by Canadian scientists about the still critical state of the northern cod stocks, and wondered why there seemed to be little mention of seals (or, if there was, it was buried in the news coverage), and the devastating impact they have always had, and continue to have, on the mortality rate of the cod.
There’s more seals out there than ever before, millions upon millions upon millions, Jack noted, the result of the antisealing movement’s destruction over the past three decades of the markets for pelts, and the ensuing, dramatic reduction in the number of seals harvested each year.
Jack must have cut open the guts of thousands of seals, so he can attest to just how much cod they consume, and the fact that, as he pointed out to me: “They don’t eat just when they’re hungry, but gorge constantly on cod and caplin, and just about anything they find.” Jack said he found a pair of gloves in the stomach of one dead seal.
I’m not sure why the scientists didn’t make as big a deal as they should have about seals and their dramatic influence on the cod stocks; perhaps they’re sheepish about the subject, given its controversial nature. You never know. But I’d take the experiences and observations of a Jack Troake over the studies of a scientist any day of the week.
Now, I have to concede that although there wasn’t much reference to seals in the initial coverage of the dire prognosis for the cod delivered by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists, there was a subsequent suggestion by the fisheries union of an increased cull of seals, and federal Fisheries Minister Dominic LeBlanc did seem to admit that seals have been a factor in the depletion of cod. Where he will take that admission, though, is anybody’s guess, and I’m not optimistic he’ll take dramatic action, if the past history of Ottawa pussyfooting with antisealing zealots is any indication.
Surely, though, there has to be a way to make an expanded cull lucrative for sealers, to seek markets for the meat, at the very least, meat that has gotten a reputation as the ultimate example of healthy food.
In any case, being this is spring, the time for the annual seal harvest, I can’t help but note, in closing, a recent story about Brigitte Bardot who, perhaps more than anyone, embodied the disgraceful anti-sealing movement and the perpetuation of Newfoundland sealers as a bunch of barbarians.
Bardot, the protector of the seal pup, has declared that the “vast majority” of women in the #MeToo movement are “hypocrites,” that they “teased” movie producers to get roles, and, when they were unsuccessful, cried foul and claimed to have been harassed.
And, it should be noted, this is the same Bardot who has been fined on a couple of occasions for provoking racial hatred in France.
So, the saviour of the seals: an apologist for sexual harassers and a racist.
Jack Troake and I didn’t get around to having a yak about Bardot last week.
Maybe next time.
Surely, though, there has to be a way to make an expanded cull lucrative for sealers, to seek markets for the meat, at the very least.