Ministerial Question Period: Commercial Seal Hunt

By: The Hon. Jane Cordy

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Hon. Jane Cordy: Thank you, minister, for being with us today.

My question is also focused on Canada’s seal harvest. During the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans study of the sealing industry, we heard many fishers’ concerns about the management of the seal harvest. The sealers stated that too few seals are harvested, leaving many species of fish at risk on both the east and west coasts. Currently, Canada doesn’t have a seal fishery on the West Coast.

In the House Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans report, it was noted there have been informal calls to establish a West Coast harvest.

Minister, has DFO, under their new emerging fishery policies, received any proposals to establish a West Coast harvest? Would DFO consider that possibility?

Hon. Diane Lebouthillier, P.C., M.P., Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard: I have to say, having been to the west coast for a week last December . . . Every time I broached the subject of seals, people were very uncomfortable talking to me about it. In the end, they said that, yes, there are seals and that is creating a problem for the fishery. Of course, that is a priority for me. This is a much easier topic to address on the East Coast of Canada and in the Arctic, but we have some work to do on the West Coast when it comes to talking more openly about this.

Three weeks ago, a seal turned up on the beach and people dubbed it Emerson. He was getting out of the water and wandering the streets of Victoria. Fishery officials were taking him back to the water and he kept coming back. That was a real problem. It cost a lot of money to deal with Emerson. People on the West Coast are more sensitive when we talk about making this a sector of the economy and an activity that could be very successful.

Senator Cordy: Thank you, minister. It is good to hear that you are opening the dialogue on the West Coast.

It was noted in the House of Commons seal report that of the 4,482 licences issued by DFO in 2022, only 330 were actively being used on the East Coast. Does DFO investigate inactive sealing licences to determine why there are so many licences that are being given out but that are not being used by fishers?

Ms. Lebouthillier: Yes, we’ve looked at the situation, and you’re right to bring it up. Sealers aren’t even able to harvest the allotted quotas, which is why it’s important to work here in Canada to make seal a product that people want to eat and use. By the way, I’ll say that seal meat is delicious when it’s prepared properly. I consider it a source of protein. The fur can also be used. This will even enable Indigenous communities to . . . That’s why I think it’s very important for Indigenous communities to provide leadership and contribute, so that we can help women economically with the fur trade. Ninety-eight percent of the animal can be used.

The Hon. the Speaker: Thank you, minister.

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