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New rules for sealers

By Carolyn Sloan
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 31, 2008

NUNAVUT - The federal government is proposing new regulations on seal hunting that are aimed at making the harvest more humane.

NNSL Photo/Graphic

Joanasie Papatsie carves up a seal in Pangnirtung. The federal government is proposing new regulations on seal harvesting so as to make the practice more humane. NNSL file photo

The proposed regulations, posted in the Canada Gazette Dec. 27, modify the three-step process of harvesting seals, including the stunning, checking and bleeding of the animals.

According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), the primary aim of the amendments is to align sealing practices with the recommendations of the International Veterinarians’ Working Group (IVWG).

“The proposed amendments prescribe a more humane hunting method which would eliminate unnecessary pain and suffering and would provide sealers with a reliable method for checking death,” DFO states in its attached analysis.

In light of the European Union’s proposed ban on seal products, the regulations are also aimed at appeasing the animal welfare concerns of the industry’s key market. But according to Barry Rashotte, DFO’s director general of resource management, the EU’s derogation criteria in the proposed European ban are still unclear.

“Trying to address the EU criteria is probably secondary,” said Barry Rashotte, DFO’s director general of resource management.

“We don’t know what the criteria actually are because they’re still changing them and they’re going through their process there and amending them.”

Under the new regulations, sealers would be prohibited from using a hakapik or club for seals over a year old.

While the majority of seals harvested are under a year in age, the veterinary group recommended that any older seals be killed by riffle, as the thickness of their skulls makes clubbing less effective, and therefore, less humane.

“It was mainly to avoid using a club on an older animal when the first clubbing of the animal would not render it unconscious,” said Rashotte.

Another requirement is that sealers verify death solely through palpation of the skull, as opposed to the blinking reflex test, which is not always reliable. Sealers would also be required to bleed the animals for one minute prior to skinning.

Despite the modifications, Rashotte does not predict they will have a significant affect on sealing in the North.

“I don’t see any impacts on the hunts in the North with respect to the regulations,” he said. “With respect to what they can use to dispatch the animal, they can use the traditional methods they’ve always used.”