August 12, 1994 Halifax Herald

With jobs and hope scarce, can we ignore any source?

Me thinks the time has come for us to manage the fisheries and the seal population for the good of the majority of our people, rather than trying to do so in response to the demands of special interests groups. This is 1994 not 1497, a time when the Atlantic fisheries seemed inexhaustible and the need to conserve was unheard of. The human population of the world has increased a hundredfold or more since then, and the need for us to responsibly manage and conserve vital food resources has become critical. In this context, the need to feed ourselves takes precedence over the needs of large herds of insatiable predators.

If it wasn't happening, it would be impossible for me to believe that responsible people would stand by in this time of world food shortages and allow the destruction of a valuable and renewable food resource by permitting the unchecked growth of the Grey-Seal herd. This animal is a veritable eating machine with very few natural enemies. To put on its blubber, it needs to consume vast quantities of fish and thus must almost constantly feed. Caused by the federal government's cancellation of the annual seal hunt, in answer to the demands of special-interests groups, its population has increased to the point where it is in the process of becoming the top consumer of fish in the Atlantic region.

Now, in an effort to regain control of the situation, there is talk of trying to reduce the seal population by the use of birth control. Try as I might, knowing the vastness of the North Atlantic, I can't visualize the animals voluntarily gathering in a specific location for the purpose of lining up to participate in birth control efforts. But then I suppose, in the minds of dreamers, anything is possible.

Give us a break! There are tens of thousands of people out of work in the fisheries who are in desperate need of employment. Surely, there must be a way to begin a harvest of these animals that will be both conducive to creating employment for our unemployed while at the same time conserving the animal in acceptable numbers and providing relief for fish stocks.

How about using them as a food source? I have never tasted the flesh of a seal; however, the ancient Micmac did utilize products from the animal for their survival. In the 17th century, Nicholas Denys wrote this about the people's dietary habits:

"There was formerly a much larger number of Indians than at present. They lived without care, and never ate either salt or spice. They drank only good soup, very fat. It was this that made them live long and multiply much.

They often ate fish, especially seals to obtain the oil.... and they ate the whale, which frequently came ashore on the coast, especially the blubber on which they made good cheer. Their greatest liking is for grease; they ate as one does bread, and drink it liquid!"

The before-mentioned indicates that the seal's flesh is potable and that people can acquire a taste for it - the same as they do, in the course of time, for other new products. The flesh of the animal, based upon its fish diet, should be very nutritious. With imagination, many other diverse uses for products from the animal's carcass can be found - pet food, for instance.

Now comes the part that gets many people up in arms, the slaughter of the beast. How to do it in a humane manner is the question. The method we settle upon must be a method that vastly improves upon the way its natural enemy, the shark, does it. The shark in a feeding frenzy virtually eats the beast alive! Given our skills in inventing methods to kill one another, finding a humane method to slaughter the seal, in this age of space exploration and advanced technology, should not be an insurmountable problem.

There is a natural resource waiting here to be developed and harnessed. In this area of high unemployment and lost hope, can we afford to continue to ignore it?

Daniel N. Paul


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