seal hunt

Commercial Seal Hunting Bill Proposed in British Columbia

How does seal meat from Canada sound for your next meal?

The Pacific Balance Pinniped Society has requested the Canadian government to allow coastal First Nations to engage in commercial seal and sea lion hunting on the Pacific Coast of British Columbia.

The group will meet with the Department of Fisheries and Ocean Thursday in Vancouver to discuss the logistics of a hunt, such as season dates, transport, harvest methods and commercial sale.

According to the DFO, the British Columbia seal population has grown tremendously over the last 50 years. In 1970, there were only 10,000 seals, and there are well over 100,000 today.

The proposal is sparking a lot of controversy, as many argue the hunt would create jobs and bring stability back to marine wildlife on the West Coast, while others contend that it would cause more problems.

"This is a business plan to employ up to 4,000 people and bring the pinnipeds back into historical balance," PBPS founder Ken Pearce told CTV Vancouver in an interview.

Many of those in favor of giving the seal cull the green light believe a reduction in the number of seals and sea lions would take pressure off chinook salmon, which in turn would benefit the endangered orca population.

The opposition, however, believes orcas are just as dependent on the marine mammals as a food source.

"My concern with this proposal is the impacts it's going to have on other parts of the ecosystem," Andrew Trites, a scientist at the University of British Columbia, told CTV. "Our transient killer whale population is entirely dependent on eating seals and sea lions in British Columbia. If you removed 50 percent of them, you're going to cause, potentially, transient killer whales to starve.

"Is the world going to stand by as we kill seals so that people in San Francisco can eat them at the finest restaurants? We're going to allow people to eat them before we allow our own killer whales to consume them."

If the sea lion and seal hunt is to happen, a crucial step will be testing the meat and blubber to make sure it's safe to eat, too.

The final decision is in the hands of DFO Minister Johnathan Wilkinson.

"(The DFO) need more discussion, which I understand because this is the first proposal to harvest (seals) to hit their desks, so it's brand new to them," Pearce told CBC in another report.

We'll keep you updated here at Wide Open Spaces as this story continues to develop.