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Old 03-24-2005, 12:34 PM   #1
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Stop Canada's Massive Seal Hunt

When I first saw a mention of this on CNN.com, I didn't bother to read it. I thought oh, it's some case of overpopulation or a Native American hunt that animal rights groups are getting too hysterical about.

But then I saw a banner about it on another environmental site and clicked on it, and was quite shocked to find out the real story. I didn't even know we still hunted seals for their fur, and even more horrified to find that we still did it so inhumanely. (So exactly what *are* hunting rifles used for nowadays? I thought that was the #2 reason why us North Americans needed them!)

I don't really know how effective this pledge is going to be, but perhaps if enough people sign it, it will send a strong message.

I would advise you not to watch the footage or view the photos, if it's anything like the video I watched at PETA, you'll be traumatized for life.

http://www.protectseals.org/
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Old 03-24-2005, 12:42 PM   #2
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i signed it. those are some of the cutest little things i've ever seen. thanks for sharing this. i hope some others here sign as well.
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Old 03-24-2005, 12:52 PM   #3
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Canada has this seal hunt, because they have become populated to the point of becoming a pest. There are over 5 million of these seals now, and they affect the Newfoundland fishing industry.

I don't agree with being cruel to animals, but we do have hunting seasons for many overpopulated animals. I know that PETA hates hunting completely.

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Old 03-24-2005, 01:14 PM   #4
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* (home)*******


Grey Seal Conservation Society (GSCS)
Position statement against the Canadian harp seal hunt
March 14, 2005


Advice to Ocean Ecosystem Managers: Trust the seals, fear the microbes…


To:****** The Honourable Geoff Regan
*********** Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Canada
*********** min@dfo-mpo.gc.ca


*********** The Honourable Stéphane Dion
*********** Minister of Environment, Canada
*********** stephane.dion@ec.gc.ca


The Grey Seal Conservation Society (GSCS), a non-profit organization based in Atlantic Canada, urges the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and Environment Canada to bring an immediate end to the commercial harp seal hunt.


The Canadian harp seal hunt is ecologically damaging on two fronts that seem not to have been considered by DFO: (1) An unprecedented, drastic loss of natural marine predators has already occurred. Because major change of this nature can destabilize a marine ecosystem, no more large fish predators, including seals, should be removed at this time. (2) If the seal hunt is not banned outright this year, a minimum precautionary directive from DFO and Environment Canada should immediately forbid sealers from abandoning seal corpses to rot in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Sealers now routinely discard massive amounts of rotting dead seal flesh in an ocean area with oxygen-poor bottom water, contributing to polluting and further degrading the marine environment.


The seal cull approach to “cod recovery,” although strongly favoured by the fishing industry, is naïve, and is based on outdated myths about predators in general, and on misperceptions about the natural relationship between seals and cod. Twenty-first century science, including DFO Science, knows better.


MYTH 1: Cod stocks are failing to rebuild today because there are too many cod predators in Canadian waters.
MYTH 2: If seal numbers could be lowered in Atlantic Canada, then “it stands to reason” that the numbers of cod would naturally increase.*
MYTH 3:* Although seals did not demolish the cod stocks (it is generally accepted that human “overfishing” was the primary cause of the collapse), seals have now unfortunately grown “out of balance” with the relatively small number of cod that are left.
MYTH 4: Predators inflict damage and threaten to destroy their prey.**
MYTH 5: DFO Science supports seal culling as a prudent measure to help rebuild cod stocks.**
MYTH 6: The seal hunt does no damage to any other marine species, because only seals are killed.*
MYTH 7: Seal populations are robust and resilient and are capable of withstanding intense commercial exploitation. They will bounce back, because they have done so before.


MYTH 1: Cod stocks are failing to rebuild today because there are too many cod predators in Canadian waters.


It is argued by the fishing industry that cod are failing to rebuild their numbers because too many fish are being eaten by an overgrown population of natural predators (specifically, seals).


FACT: There are now fewer cod predators in Canadian waters than at any other time in recorded history (1).



”…there are currently very few large fish – a situation likely to have never been witnessed in the past.”*

- DFO, 2003



Predator pressure on cod stocks is at an historic low, despite a recent increase in the numbers of some species of seals. The increase in seal numbers has been massively outweighed by a huge decline in the number of other predators capable of eating small fish (as seals do), which has occurred with the recent disappearance of virtually all large fish (big cod, big halibut, sharks, etc.) (1,2). DFO scientists have even noted “insufficient predation” among the factors now having adverse impacts on the health of fish stocks (2). Natural predator “coverage” of the undersea world now appears to be at a dangerously low level. This is dangerous because predator/scavengers are vital elements that work to maintain the “cleanliness” and health of the ocean ecosystem. Without predator/scavengers, the danger rises that “rot” might set in and work to deaden the system.


MYTH 2: If seal numbers could be lowered in Atlantic Canada, then “it stands to reason” that the numbers of cod would naturally increase.*****


FACT: Cod numbers in Atlantic Canadian waters are now severely constrained by adverse environmental conditions, and removing seals will in no way lessen these contraints. *


The environmental factors limiting cod growth include a shortage of food (3,4), a declining availability of oxygen in some areas (4), and a lowered resistance of cod to stressors such as cold water (1,4). If these environmental conditions should change in their favour, the population of Atlantic cod would predictably increase, because cod is a naturally robust, persistent species. Under more favourable environmental conditions, fish like cod, that mature in a few years and then produce millions of eggs annually, can swell their ranks quite rapidly. On the other hand, if the environment is stacked too heavily against the survival of cod, these fish will inevitably die off. Unfortunately, at present, adverse marine environmental changes in Canadian waters include ominous plankton shifts, with a significant loss of the small animal plankton (zooplankton) that ultimately feed fish. Part of the role of natural predators, including seals, is to subtly rebuild zooplankton numbers and to thereby work “for” and not “against” the future healthy growth of cod. This makes the intentional elimination of seals or other fish-predators especially risky actions today. Because natural predators crop fish numbers down to match what their environment can currently support, while stimulating new growth of plankton (food) and helping maintain the oxygen content of the water, deliberate predator removal must be contraindicated when a prey species is suffering from adverse environmental conditions, such as is seen with Canadian cod. In today’s marine environmental reality, with weakened plankton, lowered oxygen, and stunted, unhealthy fish, it “stands to reason” that killing more seals will ultimately worsen the odds of recovery for the cod stock.*


DFO scientists have recently described the cumulative impact of the massive removal of large predatory fish from the ocean by commercial fishermen as a factor that has contributed to the generalized starvation of cod and other bottom fish in Atlantic Canadian waters today (3). This is a radical new scientific insight, and one that has serious implications for the future of the fishing industry. This also provides a scientific rationale for ending the seal hunt.


MYTH 3:* Although seals did not demolish the cod stocks (it is generally accepted that human “overfishing” was the primary cause of the collapse), seals have now unfortunately grown “out of balance” with the relatively small number of cod that are left (5).



"The trouble with the world is not that people know so little, but that they know so many things that ain't so."

- Mark Twain



It is argued on this basis that seals should have their numbers reduced to restore a more “normal” seal:fish ratio in the sea, and that, while seals must suffer now for the mistakes of the fishing industry, it should be remembered that people and their livelihoods are more important than the lives of seals.


FACT:* Seals, especially if they exist in increased numbers, actually have the potential to assist in the recovery of the cod stocks today, because all natural predators affect environmental conditions to the benefit of fish. For this reason, seals should now be protected.*


Seals and other natural predators positively affect ecosystem processes, including nutrient cycling, to increase “resource availability” to their prey fish (6). And low “resource availability” is the major problem limiting the growth of cod today. A subtler, less immediately obvious facet of the seal-fish relationship than the killing and eating of prey fish by seals, however this payback scheme between seals and fish is the secret of their long-successful healthy co-existence. In comparison to seals, the fishing industry is young and inept, because humans have not found a way to positively integrate their feeding and excretory habits with the lives of fish, a feat accomplished by seals 25 million years ago.*


It is a positive sign, of residual resilience in the weakened marine animal web, that seal numbers have made gains in recent years, even as prey fish and large predatory fish have both declined. But it must be emphasized that there is absolutely no reason to fear that there are now “too many seals.” Essentially, seals are now making partial compensation for the massive loss of the other large fish predators, and for the resulting negative impact of that loss on the ecosystem. If the underwater domain is not patrolled by enough large predators, who promptly eat exhausted fish as they succumb to environmentally-induced mortality, then dangerous microscopic organisms (rot) will multiply and will further degrade the habitat for fish (and ultimately, for seals too.) Future ocean health must not be sacrificed for short-term financial incentives. Therefore, the lives of seals at this time are worth more than the economic benefit to the commercial sealers.*


Trust the seals, fear the microbes.


MYTH 4: Predators inflict damage and threaten to destroy their prey.*


This is a fundamental human misperception, perhaps based on a subconscious natural fear of animals possessing teeth large enough to consume us. A disinformation campaign has worked for many years to raise a false alarm in the public mind about seals damaging fish stocks because they are “predators.”


FACT: Predators play an important positive role in maintaining ecosystem health.


Robust and healthy marine animal life (as existed for millennia in Atlantic Canada) is largely a promiscuous swarming web of predatory carnivores of all sizes. Although at first glance, savage death seems to run rampant through such a sea, the true nature and the ultimate result of this mass unrestrained carnivorous behaviour is not destruction, but is extremely pro-life. A paradox, perhaps, to the average human imagination, but this is true nevertheless. The actions of ocean predators, and the number of these predators, does not serve to damage or weaken the living animal web in any way, but instead they work to naturally strengthen and vitalize it. Highly evolved fish-dependent predators like seals present absolutely no threat to the continued existence of their prey fish, in part because their own future relies wholly on the future of fish. Seals will not survive without fish, and these marine mammals evolved only after fish were an established presence in the sea. The natural ecology of seals is therefore inherently, strongly pro-fish.


In contrast, there are other marine organisms that now increasingly “threaten” and destroy fish, specifically dangerous primitive microbes that existed in the sea for eons before the evolution of fish. These tiny killers do not depend on fish for their future survival. Therefore, if the current resurgence of bacteria in the ocean expands to the point where fish are eliminated, and microbes dominate the sea again, then the killers of the fish will suffer no particular setback. These species are therefore infinitely more “dangerous” than seals. Uncontrolled growth of bacteria in the sea, such as the microbes that cause dead flesh to “rot,” presents a genuine “threat” to the survival of fish in today’s degraded ocean environment. Ecologically, seals are the antithesis of bacteria.


Seals take advantage of cod weakened or killed by adverse environmental conditions, and this is fine. Better that fish be consumed by seals, than by microbes. Seals and other natural predators selectively kill the weakest and least viable fish in the cod stock. Natural predators, especially the air-breathing seals, can patrol the periphery of a low-oxygen “dead zone,” for example, and selectively remove the weakened and dying individual fish. Fishermen cannot do this, yet we have long vainly assumed that we can simply “replace” natural predators with human fisheries.


No apology needs be offered for the fact that seals eat cod, nor for the tonnage of cod flesh swallowed by seals, whatever that may be. Such numbers are irrelevant to the calculation of the ultimate value of seals and other natural predators in the ocean. When the environment is degraded and less naturally supportive of fish, individual fish simply cannot grow to large sizes as their kind did previously in the same area. Cod and other fish now die off before they can reach the sizes previously attained by their kind, and when these fish deaths occur it is very important that their environment contains natural predators that can eat them. There is a great life-enhancing value in the predatory/scavenger service provided by seals versus the alternate breakdown service provided by bacteria. People who today seek to avert what they perceive as an “explosive overgrowth” of seals in the ocean should ask themselves if they would prefer to see an “explosive overgrowth” of bacteria instead. Because that is exactly where conditions in the ocean are now heading (4, 6, 7), and blindly forging ahead with the seal cull will only serve to hasten this end*


Trust the seals, fear the microbes.


MYTH 5: DFO Science supports seal culling as a prudent measure to help rebuild cod stocks.


FACT: DFO scientists have not concluded that seal culling can help rebuild cod stocks, in fact they have published warnings against the removal of natural marine predators because this could trigger unpredictable negative consequences throughout the ecosystem (8,9).


Calculating the amount of prey fish eaten by seals is not the same thing as demonstrating a negative impact of seals upon fish stocks, although many people (including some scientists) seem to have made this incorrect simplistic assumption. For a while, DFO entertained the “predator pit” hypothesis regarding seals and cod, but this idea has now given way as the weight of evidence points toward environmental conditions being fundamentally unsupportive of cod as they were in the past. DFO Science knows enough today to realize that the seal cull is ecologically irresponsible (as is the associated mass disposal of rotting harp seal corpses in the Gulf of St. Lawrence). The seal cull in Canada is condoned and continues in 2005 for purely political reasons – because it is what the fishing industry demands. However, on paper, DFO is formally committed to finer modern “ocean stewardship” ideals, to the concepts of “ecosystem-based fisheries management” and the “precautionary approach” (9, 10). Hence, a serious conflict now exists inside DFO between the current level of scientific enlightenment and the crude “management” actions that are still taken, although this conflict is still largely hidden from the public under platitudes about “sustainable harvesting of marine resources.”


MYTH 6: The seal hunt does no damage to any other marine species, because only seals are killed.


FACT: The seal cull threatens to worsen the currently degraded state of the ecosystem in which all marine species live.


Living seals are natural catalysts that work to enhance the general health and survival of all larger, more active forms of sea life, including fish, while uneaten dead seals – especially if their corpses fall into oxygen-poor bottom waters, as exist in the Gulf of St. Lawrence – are catalysts for death, and for the a potential runaway dominance of bacteria and rot. Adding a catalyst, or removing one from the system, causes significant effects that cannot necessarily be calculated based on the weight of the catalyst alone. Ocean ecosystem modelers, including scientists working for DFO, have not yet fully realized this basic truth about seals, fish, bacteria, and all else in the sea…and this important basic knowledge gap results in a great deal of the continued “bafflement” of fisheries scientists today, and in their general inability to offer a coherent explanation for today’s broad-scale changes in ocean life.


Old thought patterns – especially when tied to money – die hard.


MYTH 7: Seal populations are robust and resilient and are capable of withstanding intense commercial exploitation. They will bounce back, because they have done so before.


FACT: Not necessarily true, that is exactly what DFO and the fishing industry wrongly assumed about the cod.*


The truth is that warning signs of stress are now appearing in Canadian seals too: diet shifts, range shifts, lowered physical condition of seals…in short, the same biological signals are now appearing in seals that appeared in cod in the early 1990’s before their sudden population crash. Any honest “precautionary approach” to “marine ecosystem management” in Canada in 2005 must include the abolishment of all commercial seal hunting.


Copyright: Grey Seal Conservation Society (GSCS), 2005
(by Debbie MacKenzie, email: debbie@greyseal.net )


See also:
"Something is Rotten in the Gulf of St. Lawrence" (more on the hypoxia problem)
"Something (else) is rotten in the Gulf of St. Lawrence" (a related hypocrisy)

...
http://www.fisherycrisis.com/seals/noharpsealhunt.htm

i tried to find out more about this whole thing and came across this. i suppose there is an argument to be made for both sides.
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Old 03-24-2005, 02:16 PM   #5
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I've seen videos and photos of baby seal hunting, it is awful
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Old 03-24-2005, 05:06 PM   #6
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Originally posted by melon
Canada has this seal hunt, because they have become populated to the point of becoming a pest. There are over 5 million of these seals now, and they affect the Newfoundland fishing industry.

I don't agree with being cruel to animals, but we do have hunting seasons for many overpopulated animals. I know that PETA hates hunting completely.

Melon
Did you read the information at all? I'm just curious. Because PETA isn't even sponsoring this campaign, it's the Humane Society, who I trust more than the hyperbole of PETA anyway.
Secondly, this isn't an "anti-hunting" issue but one of needless and senseless cruelty to animals, with some special interests (i.e. the fur trade, among others) benefitting along the way.

The sole reason I even referred to PETA was in reference to an anti-fur video I watched of theirs, I should have made that clear. I know this seal website also has similar, graphic videos.

I am not opposed to culling herds or hunting seasons--the sensitive Bambi fan in me doesn't like it, but I understand the need for it. And people use the meat and the fur and the animal does not suffer. It's probably more humane than a slaughterhouse. If this campaign was about that (and I originally thought it was) than I probably wouldn't have bothered to post about it. In fact, I would have said "Well, at least they'll use the whole seal."

The bottom line is, if the seal herds genuinely need to be culled--and evidence suggests otherwise--there are *humane* ways to do it and that is what I would like to see Canada address. There is no reason not to. I'm not sure why humane methods aren't being used anyway--if you can get close enough to a seal to club it, you can get close enough for a clean head shot. Unless of course, this is all about the fur. (And actually, I'm still not sure how a clean shot damages the fur any more than beating does?)
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Old 03-25-2005, 01:14 PM   #7
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I've been fighting this for years it's sad to see it's still going on. How primitive and evil!
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Old 03-25-2005, 07:27 PM   #8
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Thanks VERY much for posting this - I just signed the petition.

I'm so glad to find others here who feel very much the way that I do about our natural world.

Our environment and the wildlife who inhabit it MUST BE PROTECTED for their continued survival.
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Old 03-31-2005, 05:30 AM   #9
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Yesterday I made the HUGE mistake of looking at a couple of pictures they have on Yahoo. I guess I forced myself so I would face the reality of what is being done to those animals.

I don't know how anyone could ever defend this after seeing those pictures. Brutal and horrific doesn't even begin to describe it.

I'd advise against looking at the pictures.
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