That's wonderful. Thank you very much.
I guess it's a recognized point that sealing is important not only for economic purposes but also for non-economic purposes and as part of our cultural fibre, whether in an anglophone, a francophone, or an Inuit community where people rely on the resource and these animals for their very subsistence. It has been described as a time-honoured tradition and a way of life among Inuit, francophones, and anglophones, each group of which demonstrates very individual harvesting techniques and expresses cultural pride in the activity.
Having said that, for four decades seal populations have grown exponentially. Since the European Union ban on seal products in 2009, the annual Canadian seal harvests have fallen well below the DFO-established total allowable catches. Populations have risen to new heights. The harp seal population is now above seven million animals, three times the 1970 levels. The grey seal population has exceeded 500,000, an 80-fold increase since the 1960s. While ring seals are uncounted, observations indicate growth in populations. The same is true for various species on the west coast of Canada.
The economic contributions to the Canadian economy are significant, at more than $70 million in 2005 and 2011. In 2012, the seal hunt saved our fisheries approximately $360 million of seafood that would otherwise have been consumed by over-abundant seal populations. Northwest Atlantic harp seals eat 15 times more fish than the entire Canadian fisheries. The true value of the meat of the hunt is not fully understood, but it is consumed extensively throughout the communities.
A viable commercial sealing industry is an essential tool in a fisheries management regime. Sealing is part of the solution, not part of the problem. Either the consumer will cover the cost of maintaining a stable seal population or governments will. Unfortunately, the latter is already the case in many jurisdictions.
With about 10,000 licensed sealers in Canada, there is ability to manage this valuable resource. The problem lies in the bans, which are basically dismantling the seal harvest.
The FIC takes an active role in defending this important role of sealers in our ecosystem. They are out there making a living; 35 % of an annual income can come from the seal hunt. The hunt happens during a time of year when few other economic opportunities present themselves. With decreased demand for the product because of the bans, times are tough economically for many families who rely on this industry.
Seal hunting in Canada occurs in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, and Nunavut, with emerging activity on the west coast in British Columbia. Sealing is a sustainable practice that utilizes an abundant, natural, and renewable Canadian resource. It is highly regulated. Canadian sealing has among the highest standards in the world of animal welfare.
In Canada, seal hunting is also an instrument for conservation. Federal fisheries resource managers within DFO set yearly allowable catches at sustainable levels, which are rarely met. They are based on a precautionary management approach in order to maintain abundant populations.
This year the harp seal quota is at an all-time high: 468, 000 animals. If you compare that with the 2007 total of 270, 000, you can see the large jump in the species. Following the survey in 2008, there were an estimated 7.6 million harp seals in the northwest Atlantic. This is an abundant and renewable resource that needs to be managed, harvested, and commercially marketed.
The bans in place from the European Union are based on a stigmatization of sealing by the anti-use industries. It is time to establish a new narrative and restore international markets for seal products.
We would like to encourage the government to take this opportunity to develop and implement a detailed market development plan for harp, ring, and grey seals that targets opportunities in Canada, Europe, Russia, China, Taiwan, and other markets.
A commitment to an integrated, ecosystem-based management approach to fisheries that ensures the sustainable use of all marine resources is also required. The principle of ecosystem-based management is well established and internationally accepted. Canada explicitly acknowledges this approach in its fisheries policies and publications. So have virtually all seal-range states and international organizations, such as the European Union, the North Atlantic Fisheries Organization, the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
However, while EBM is accepted, it is not fully applied in Canada. Canada has the largest seal populations in the world. Fisheries management is undertaken on a species-by-species, stock-by-stock basis.