Today FFAW-Unifor members are celebrating National Seal Product Day in Newfoundland and Labrador. National Seal Product Day is a day to advocate for the sealing industry, the sustainable hunt and to promote the seal products that come from the industry.
“The seal harvest in our province is something to be celebrated and encouraged. Our coastal communities have strong ties to this sustainable hunt, which continues to make a significant contribution to the economy in rural Newfoundland and Labrador,” said FFAW-Unifor President Keith Sullivan.
Seal populations are one of the largest contributing factors to natural mortality of the rebuilding northern cod stocks. There are approximately 8 million seals in Atlantic Canada, and each adult can consume approximately two tonnes of prey each year, up to half of which is cod. This is substantially more cod than the small stewardship fishery harvests each year.
“Without a doubt, there is an overpopulation of harp and grey seal populations in our region. Managed properly, coastal communities have the opportunity to benefit further from the seal harvest while encouraging a more balanced ecosystem. More can be done to encourage this potentially vibrant economic industry for our coastal communities, and our government has the ability to make this happen,” said FFAW-Unifor Inshore Director Bill Broderick.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans successfully implemented seal control programs until the 1980’s, and have since commissioned studies to find solutions to grey seal overpopulation. In 2017, the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans recommended that the government “make every effort to control the seal population through a sustainable and responsible harvest to ensure the seal populations do not prevent the northern cod stock from replenishing in the future.”
Yet to date, no action has been made to follow through on this key recommendation.
More focus is needed on predation within the ecosystem and the impact of seals on northern cod stocks. Coastal communities depend on healthy ecosystems for survival, and as groundfish recover it is of utmost importance that we do what we can to support a balanced ecosystem and a sustainable seal harvest.