Monthly Archives: November 2013

Dispelling Myths About Canada’s Seal Hunt

Canada’s annual seal hunt is set to begin on 15 November 2013, much to the dismay of, among others, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Chefs for Seals–the organization’s anti-sealing campaign–has, for eight years, promoted a boycott against all Canadian fish and seafood products as a means of pressuring Ottawa to impose a ban on commercial sealing.

The campaign’s Facebook page states that, “More than 6,000 restaurants and grocery stores (in addition to 800,000 individuals) have joined the Protect Seals boycott of Canadian seafood. They are making it clear that the Canadian annual commercial seal hunt is an unacceptable business practice undertaken by Canada’s fishing industry.

Why, though, is commercial sealing an unacceptable business practice?

Seals are not endangered. Indeed, the threat status for harp seals–determined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature–is “least concern” and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), in a 2011 report on the status of Northwest Atlantic harp seals, indicates that, “The current population is at its highest level seen in the 60 year time series.”

For instance, an estimated eight million harp seals inhabit Newfoundland’s eastern coast, 400% higher than the DFO’s 1950 estimate (Figure 1). Furthermore, sealers harvested an average of 65.14% of the annual total allowable catch (TAC) between 1971 and 2013 (though the HSUS claims otherwise). The commercial seal hunt is not, therefore, a conservational issue.

Figure 1: Estimated Total Population for Northwest Atlantic Harp Seals, 1950-2012

Figure 1: Estimated Total Population for Northwest Atlantic Harp Seals, 1950-2012

On the contrary, the Northwest Atlantic harp seal’s predatory nature necessitates population control measures that mitigate its ecological impact. For instance, harp seals consume tenfold Canada’s annual seafood export and are a major impediment to regenerating Newfoundland’s vulnerable fish population. Employing the commercial seal hunt to cull Newfoundland’s seal population is, consequently, justifiable considering its predaciousness and explosive growth rates.

Similarly, the European Union (EU)–despite its charlatan opposition to the Canadian seal harvest–permits seal culling to protect its fish stocks.

As a result, adversaries of the commercial seal hunt justify their opposition on moral grounds–an appeal to emotion instead of reason.

The ethicality of seal hunting, however, compares with (if not exceeds) other methods of animal slaughter. Unlike cows and pigs, for instance, seals are free-range animals liberated from the vices of factory farming. Furthermore, the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA) and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) consider the hakapik–a club used by seal hunters (with the exception of the Inuit, who use harpoons)–to be a humane method of slaughter. Not to mention that it is illegal to slaughter newborn seals, despite the stubborn use of imagery suggesting otherwise. In the words of Globe and Mail columnist Margaret Wente, “Killing seals is no more inhumane than killing pigs or cows or any other animal we eat.”

Nevertheless, the Chefs for Seals campaign vows to promote the senseless boycott of Canadian fish and seafood products until the federal government imposes a ban on commercial seal hunting: “Canada’s sealers make much more money from exporting seafood to the United States than they do from killing seal pups, and this gives us a lever.”

That “lever” reprimands an entire industry for the supposed wrongdoings of a select group of individuals accused of neglecting Canadian rules and regulations. Anyone who violates Canada’s laws and regulations regarding the humane culling of seals, and engages in unethical hunting practices, undoubtedly merits opprobrium. Scapegoating hardworking Canadians, though, is absurd (especially considering the environmental and ethical inconsistencies of HSUS’s campaign).

Ultimately, however, consumer preference outweighs any argument for or against harvesting seals–a cold reality for Canadian industry, which must inadvertently defend itself against HSUS’s outlandish campaign.

Shaun Fantauzzo is a policy analyst and the AIMS on Campus project coordinator at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies

This piece is featured in the National Post’s editorial section, found here:

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CETA, NL, and MPRs

The Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) comes into effect in 2015, reducing trade barriers between Canada and the European Union (EU) and establishing new market opportunities for Canadian industry. CETA affords Canadian exporters unfettered access to European markets (wherein annual imports average $2.3 trillion), generating an estimated $12 billion in annual revenue and creating 80,000 new jobs.

Particularly situated to capitalize–provided the province adopts policies that reflect the region’s comparative advantages–is Newfoundland and Labrador (NL). CETA’s critics, however, argue that the agreement undermines NL’s economic stability by forcing the province to forego minimum processing requirements (MPR) in its fish and seafood industry that insulate domestic processors from foreign competition.

Provincial regulations mandate that fish and seafood caught in NL must be processed in-province before export. NL’s Fish Inspection Act schedules MPRs for over thirty-eight species, spanning from, ‘salted and packed in a carton not to exceed 100kg’ for capelin and mackerel to ‘head on gutted with stomach tube attached and in frozen form’ for monkfish.

Premier Kathy Dunderdale, however, confirmed that the province would relinquish its ability to legislate MPRs in exchange for tariff-free access to European markets (although MPRs will still apply to exports destined for non-European markets). In addition, Dunderdale announced plans to establish a $400 million fishery fund–70% federally subsidized–intended to offset CETA’s economic impact.

Despite claims that MPRs are the cornerstone of NL’s fishing industry, the province’s departure from protectionism is a major step forward.

NL originally adopted MPRs in response to its declining fishing industry. Amidst rising unemployment–an effect of the 1992 cod moratorium–the government enacted protectionist legislation that shielded domestic industry from foreign competition. These regulations, however, are inefficient and unnecessary–especially considering CETA’s economic potential.

Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food, and Allied Workers Union (FFAW), argues that, “[Canada has] been operating in Europe with one hand tied behind our back for a long time. Compared to our principal competitors, we have unfair market barriers they don’t have, both in terms of tariffs and end-user requirements that are costing us value and jobs in the province.”

EU-imposed tariffs on marine imports currently average 8%–25%, presenting a significant economic barrier for Canadian exporters. CETA’s ratification in 2015, however, affords NL’s fishing industry unrestricted access to the largest fish and seafood market in the global economy.

Under the terms of the agreement, all EU fish and seafood tariff lines will be duty-free by 2022. Furthermore, CETA forces the EU to eliminate end-user restrictions on Canadian imports (an ironically similar concession to NL’s MPR surrender). These restrictions prevent Canadian exporters (including sole-proprietor fishermen) from branding, marketing, and selling their products directly to European consumers by requiring European companies to first process marine imports before final sale.

Furthermore, Canadian industry has lower energy, labour, and production costs compared to its EU counterparts–despite a warning from NL Fisheries Critic Jim Bennett that CETA benefits Spanish and Portuguese processors–further emphasizing Canada’s comparative advantage against Europe and the opportunities provided by competitive economic arrangements.

The conditions of CETA are, therefore, hugely beneficial for Atlantic Canada. NL’s fishing industry has been struggling to revive itself since 1992 and accessing European markets is the perfect incentive. Relinquishing the MPR (as well as EU-imposed end-user restrictions) facilitates diversity in the province’s fishing industry by allowing fishermen to market their product directly to European consumers, encouraging processors to economize by operating doubly as storage facilities, and permitting NL exporters to manufacture and brand their products before final sale in Europe.

Shaun Fantauzzo is a policy analyst and the AIMS on Campus project coordinator at the Atlantic Institute for Market Studies

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