The prospect of a British Columbia seal hunt was raised in earlier this year in the House of Commons when Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault said he was willing to explore the possibility of a hunt. West Coast seals and sea lions have not been commercially hunted since the 1960s.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Minister Robert Thibault has announced that he would consider opening a commercial seal hunt in British Columbia. "I never rule anything out [when] there’s a potential for a commercial harvest of an ocean species worth considering," Thibault declared.
The move caught many in the conservation and animal welfare communities by surprise given that opinion surveys revealed over 80 per cent of the province’s population have opposed commercial sealing.
"We are mystified the federal Liberals are even looking at this given the strong opposition there has been to sealing in BC," IFAW Campaigner Rob Sinclair said. "This is something everyone from Rafe Mair to the kids on Granville Street have opposed."
Culls and commercial hunts for harbor seals and Steller sea lions throughout the early twentieth century eliminated local populations. Since the 80s, seals have been an important part of eco-tourism operations in places such as Victoria, Tofino and along the Inside Passage.
"One need only look at the [Canadian] East Coast commercial seal hunt to understand why Canada should not allow another hunt," Sinclair said. "The hunt is extremely cruel, does little for the East Coast economy, and tarnishes Canada’s international reputation. Even the suggestion of a hunt could hurt Vancouver’s Olympic bid."
An international team of veterinarians studied the East Coast seal hunt in 2001 and found up to 42 per cent of the seals they examined were likely skinned alive. Media, parliamentarians, and other witnesses of the East Coast commercial hunt report each year that seals are routinely wounded and left to suffer in agony; conscious seals are dragged across the ice with boathooks; and dead and dying seals are stockpiled.
"A commercial West Coast hunt wouldn’t simply be inhumane, it would seriously damage BC’s multimillion dollar eco-tourism industry, and fly in the face of public opinion," Sinclair said.