Shea’s science

The federal fisheries minister cares more about the jobs of seal hunters than those of west coast scientists, says columnist Rob Brown

Things have never been so weird as they are right now. Pam Anderson, the First Lady of Ladysmith, proud possessor of a silicon valley of world renown, joins Sam Simon, the cancer riddled co-creator of the Simpsons, to jet to Newfoundland and offer Newfie sealers a million bucks in hopes that those hard-bitten inhabitants of the rock will stop ranging over the ice floes crushing seal skulls.

Take the generous offer, pleads a bare-legged, high heeled, shivering Pam at an outdoor press conference. A comic from CBC’s 22 Minutes ambushes the event and offers Pam a million dollars to quit acting, much to the bewilderment of those attendees who didn’t realize that bouncing along a sandy strand in a teeny bikini was acting.

The sealers are unmoved. Pam and Sam neglected to do some necessary arithmetic: a million dollars evenly divided amongst the 6,000 participants in the sealing industry comes to about $167 per person, significantly less than pogey, and as such not much of an incentive to quit whacking defenceless seals.

“They’re here, passing judgment on us as if they have some kind of moral superiority. Well quite frankly, to me, the Hollywood set doesn’t have moral superiority over very many people, and certainly not over us,” states brother Earle McCurdy, president of the Fish, Food and Allied Workers Union.

The sealing industry has seen this all before. Pam isn’t the first buxom beauty to travel to the Newfoundland in order to inveigh against seal slaughter. Only a few decades ago Brigit Bardot, then in her pulchritudinous prime, journeyed all the way from France to do likewise. There has, in fact, been a steady stream of international stars and matinee idols travelling to St. Johns and then to the ice sheets the seals call home in a campaign to draw international attention to the barbarity of Newfoundland’s seal capades.

Much to the chagrin of brother MacCurdy and his constituency as a result of the EU ban on seal products, and the censure of the hunt from such disparate political leaders as Obama and Putin, it appears that the seal hunt is endangered and about to go extinct.

But, not if the Honourable Gail Shea, the recently appointed Federal Fisheries Minister in our Neo-Conservative federal government has anything to do with it. The Honourable Gail is a staunch supporter of the sealing industry, despite the international disrepute it brings to this country. Mind you, Canada’s international reputation has not exactly been a priority to Prime Minister Stephen Harper and his cronies whose foot dragging on climate change, among other things, led to Canada’s failed bid for reelection to the UN’s Security Council where we had proudly sat for 50 years. To reaffirm her support for the seal hunt, Minister Shea, the member from Egmont PEI, did a little shopping at a popular seal fur boutique in St. John’s. Shortly thereafter she announced that she would spend $500 large on a joint pilot project to offer seal meat in stores in Canada and overseas in the new year.

According to Gail the hunt is humane and sustainable.

A seal is mammal with a brain the size of a dog’s. It is quite intelligent and it feels pain as profoundly as a dog does. If you knew somebody who clubbed Labrador retrievers so he could skin them and sell their glossy fur to be made into boots and less utilitarian products and sell their meat to the 11 countries that have no qualms about eating canine flesh, would you consider his actions humane?

As for sustainability, the minister has done her homework. It’s possible to fly over the ice off Newfoundland and count seals and, providing you have enough rigorous scientific data, engineer a sustainable hunt.

It’s a shame that Gail Shea didn’t have the same concern for species on the West Coast. Recently she gave the OK to herring roe fisheries off the west coast of Vancouver Island over the objection of the Nuu-chah-nulth First Nation who claimed the stocks had not recovered sufficiently since a closure was instituted in 2006. The Nuu-chah-nuth sued, and the court, in an unprecedented ruling, issued an injunction saying that DFO’s decision ignored the science on the matter.

Of course, Minister Shea, who presided over the closure of scientific research facilities, the gutting of the habitat division of DFO and the DFO libraries, a move that critics have characterized as the electronic equivalent of book burning, has demonstrated she cares much more for the jobs of seal hunters than those scientists, fisheries officers, and habitat technicians.