Seals & cod pieces

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1998:

Edward Island––Gabrielle Fredericks, 102,
of Toronto, in early March demonstrated just
what kind of rugged macho man it takes to go
out on the ice among newborn harp seal pups:
none at all. A paid customer of Natural Habitat
Adventure Tours, a Boulder, Colorado-based
ecotourism firm, Fredericks shrugged off two
tour guides who held her arms at first, and
walked among the seals alone for several hours
in the Northumberland Strait, reported Nancy
Willis of the Charlottetown Guardian.
Fredericks left before the annual sealclubbing
bloodshed broke out on March 15.
She has a knack for leaving just in time: sixty
years earlier she, her late husband Joe, and
their son Martin fled Adolph Hitler and Austria
just a day before the outbreak of World War II.

While the Canadian government tries
hard to keep the world from witnessing the
massacre, underway with a quota of 275,000,
it will be hard to do this year. Normally giving
birth much farther out, toward the Magdalen
Islands and Newfoundland, approximately half
a million harp seals whelped between western
Prince Edward Island and the north shore of
New Brunswick, coming that close to mainand
Canada for the first time since 1981. That
meant that sealers had the best chance to fill
their quota by coming into areas that are normally
kept off limits––because signs of the
killing might be seen.
Protesters mustered in the region as
well, led by veteran seal hunt opponent Paul
Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society, who took a ship to the scene for the
first time since 1983, when Canada briefly
jailed him and for a time seized the S e a
Shepherd II. His ship this time was the 657-ton
Sea Shepherd III, with an icebreaking hull and
a crew of celebrities including Pierce Brosnan,
William Shatner, Brigitte Bardot, Linda Blair,
and Jackie Chan, as well as film crews from
Australia, Austria, Germany, and France.
“The seal hunt will be shut
down––make no mistake about it,” said
Watson, himself a native of New Brunswick,
in the heart of Atlantic Canada. “If we have to
drag the Canadian flag through the mud to do it,
we’ll do so.
“It is our intention to proclaim to the
world that Canada must cease subsidizing the
international sex potion trade based on animal
parts,” Watson continued. “The slaughter of
hundreds of thousands of young seals for their
penises is an obscenity. Canadian Fisheries
Minister David Anderson has become the
Lorena Bobbitt to the world. The seal penis
processing plant at Dildo, Newfoundland [the
real name of the place for more than 200 years] is an international joke. Is this the image we
want to present––a land where macho men cut
off baby seal penises for fun and profit? There
are alternatives.”
In past years Watson has demonstrated
the practicability and profitability of brushing
the molting birth coats from baby seals,
which the seals seem to enjoy, and weaving
them into lightweight, warm waterproof gar

ments. Watson even lined up European garment makers who
were willing to buy all the seal wool that anyone could
comb––providing that none of the combers would also be
killing seals, and providing that the combed groups would not
be hunted after learning to trust humans. Maintaining the cruelty-free
image of seal wool was an essential part of the sales
strategy. For that reason, the Canadian Department of
Fisheries and Oceans ruled that permission to comb seals
would be issued only to previously certified seal-clubbers, who
continued to hold seal-killing permits.
Represented by Clayton Ruby, Canada’s best-known
human rights lawyer, the International Fund for Animal
Welfare on March 5 sued Fisheries Minister Anderson, alleging
that the sale of seal penises violates the Canadian
Controlled Drugs and Substances Act.
“It is simply against the law in Canada to sell or
import testosterone unless you are a physician,” Ruby
explained. That put the Canadian government in the paradoxical
position of having to contend at home that there is only
incidental testosterone in the penises of young seals, while trying
to sell their schlongs abroad as purported aphrodisiacs.
All winter IFAW hounded Newfoundland fisheries
John Effords as he toured in Canada and abroad to tout the seal
hunt. If Effords held a press conference, IFAW held a press
conference. If Effords was on a talk show, IFAW called in. If
Effords claimed the seals are “humanely” killed, IFAW
showed last year’s clandestinely made video of the seal slaughter,
which on February 20 convinced two of the 17 sealers
charged with skinning live seal pups and other atrocities to
plead guilty instead of facing a public trial––even in Baie
Verte, Newfoundland, a self-evidently friendly venue.
Simultaneously, IFAW worked to develop protest
against the 10-day harp seal hunt off Murmansk and
Archangelsk, in the White Sea, north of Russia. The Russians
dye the pelts of whitecoats black and make them into traditional
fur hats––which are identified with the old Soviet regime,
and despite a vogue for some other types of fur among the nou –
veau riche, are conspicuously out of fashion.
Though blaming seals for the continuing Atlantic
Canadian fish shortage remains politically fashionable, evidence
mounted all winter that the real culprits were generations
of politicans and fisheries administrators who muzzled scientific
warnings and year after year allowed fishers to take unsustainably
large catches, because that’s what got the pols reelected
and the mandarins, as Canadians call civil servants,
On March 1 the Canadian Press news service predicted
that, “Members of Parliament from all five political parties,”
forming the Commons Fisheries Committee, “will recommend
that the federal government should fire top bureaucrats
for their roles in the collapse of key Atlantic fish stocks.”
The 75-page committee report is expected to be
released after this year’s seal hunt is over, possibly to avoid
handing seal hunt protesters yet another piece of potent political
ammunition. It reportedly details not only political cupidity
but also the previously suppressed finding of a 1986 internal
audit of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans which discovered
that, “Attempted bribes and gifts from foregin captains
were not unusual. One DFO employee,” the audit found,
“reported a $10,000 bribe offered by a foreign captain, and
another DFO employee had $22,000 left in his mailbox by a
foreign captain.” Bribery was worthwhile: one foreign vessel
allowed to fish Canadian waters for 56 days reportedly sold the
catch for $2.4 million.
Cod fishing in Atlantic Canadian waters has been
suspended, except for occasional brief “test fisheries,” since
1992. Nonetheless, Anderson reported on February 18, the
cod stocks are still “only a fraction” of what they should be for
fishing to resume––and, after fishers aggressively pursued
salmon for several years in lieu of cod, the winter salmon runs
were only a third to 40% as big as had been expected.
The Atlantic Canada lobster catch is down 19% since
the cod moratorium started, with drops of as much as 60% in
the areas most affected by the cod moratorium.
Even if Atlantic Canadian cod stocks do eventually
recover, the former market may no longer exist. Taking note
of declining cod catches from the North Sea, now amounting
to just half the totals of 30 years ago, the British Sea Fish
Industry Authority has invested heavily in developing techniques
for inland cod farming. The first ranched cod, produced
in Scotland by Marks & Spencer Ltd., are expected to
be reaching consumers by 1999.

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