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March 1, 2006
(Executive Council)

Premier invites Sir Paul McCartney to meet to
discuss Newfoundland and Labrador perspective of seal harvest

Every year, the people of Newfoundland and Labrador endure the consequences of a powerful and heavily financed anti-sealing campaign by international organizations. These campaigns are typically filled with misinformation, inaccurate depictions of the seal harvest and a complete lack of understanding about the economic and cultural realities of the hunt.

Danny Williams, Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador, expressed today his disappointment and annoyance that this year Sir Paul McCartney will participate in a protest in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The Premier also has extended an invitation to Sir Paul to meet with him in order to discuss the seal harvest. Premier Williams says the purpose of the meeting would be to lay out for McCartney why the seal harvest is important to the province, as well as to correct some of the inaccurate information in the public domain regarding the harvest.

"I am assuming McCartney has never visited our province, or taken the time to be educated about the positive facts surrounding our annual seal harvest," said Premier Williams. "I have absolutely no objection to people having differing opinions or expressing that opinion through a protest. I do, however, find it offensive and insulting that an individual with such international influence would come to our province and pass judgement on individuals who are participating in an industry that sustains their lives, puts food on their tables, and clothes on their children´┐Żs backs. It is very frustrating for the people of our province, which is why I would appreciate the opportunity to sit with him and have a full discussion on the issue."

The seal harvest off the east coast of Canada is based on sound scientific evidence on healthy populations and is conducted in a humane manner. The annual harvest is very sustainable and the population is in no danger of being in any way threatened due to the seal harvest. International organizations continue to exploit out-dated and illegal practices that no are longer relevant and no longer exist. For example, they exploit the use of photos of young whitecoats, despite the fact that they know these seals have been by law excluded from the harvest since the 1980s. Ignoring the facts, these organizations continue to spread misleading propaganda in an effort to raise exorbitant amounts of money. The anti-sealing campaign is an industry in itself. In fact, the value of fundraising in the name of stopping the seal harvest exceeds the total value of the Canadian sealing industry.

The Premier reminded people that last year, a reporter in the United States actually wrote an article on the seal harvest that had to be retracted as it was written under false pretence. "Last year an American paper printed a story describing the graphic details of the first day of the seal fishery season, when in actual fact the season had been delayed unbeknownst to the writer or paper," added Premier Williams. "The individual who wrote the story admitted to having written the story not from the site of the fishery as claimed, and well in advance of the fishery actually starting. This is the kind of irresponsible propaganda we must deal with every year.

"I urge everyone, including Sir Paul McCartney, to question the motives of such individuals and to consider the irony of these protest organizations ignoring the plight of our depleted groundfish stocks due to foreign overfishing. Surely this is an ecological disaster worthy of their attention. These organizations do not pay the same attention to the methods used by slaughterhouses and what happens behind those doors. They are silent about the force-feeding of ducks and geese to produce enlarged livers for use as foie gras. Yet they continually assault the seal fishery, which is one of the best managed harvests of wild animals in the world."

The Premier has not yet received a response to his invitation for a meeting with Sir Paul McCartney.

Media contact: Elizabeth Matthews, Office of the Premier, (709) 729-3960, 690-5500,


Research of the modern-day harvest by veterinary experts has concluded that seals are killed in a humane manner. Ninety per cent of sealers off Newfoundland and Labrador, where the majority of the harvest occurs, use firearms to kill seals. Some sealers use a hakpik, which is an efficient tool designed to kill the animal quickly and humanely.

The people of Newfoundland and Labrador have depended on the water for survival for more than 500 years. The province has not been immune to the global trend toward modernization and urban economies are performing well, however, this has come at the expense of rural communities. Many rural regions depend on the traditional way of life, including the seal harvest, for their economic survival. In recent decades, there has been recognition of the need to make the harvest more humane and governments have implemented many regulations to ensure a humane and sustainable harvest. The sealing industry has embraced these changes as necessary, fair and humane.

Since 1970, the harp seal population has tripled. The seal herds off Canada's east coast are the largest in the world. The harp seal herd is by far the largest at an estimated 5.9 million animals, with its population increasing by more than 700,000 annually. The hood seal population is in excess of 900,000 animals and the grey seal herd stands at 143,000 animals. The seal population has been a major contributor to the lack of recovery of the groundfish stocks, which are of critical importance to the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador, and the federal Fisheries Resource Conservation Council fully supports efforts to sustainably harvest the seal resource for its economic potential, as well as to lessen pressure on recovering groundfish stocks.

The seal industry has been developed with a maximum utilization policy based on sustainable management of the resource. The important issues at this point in the sealing industry are its role in the economy, the impact of seals on the ecological imbalance in the ocean, and the necessity to base management decisions on sound scientific evidence, rather than emotionally charged issues.

The seal fishery provides a significant portion of income for more than 4,000 fishermen and plant workers, and the industry is now worth over $45 million to the local economy. The seal fishery continues to be highly regulated and is being closely monitored to ensure that it is conducted in accordance with the best established practices.

2006 03 02                            3:40 p.m.

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