Wouldn’t you like to see the Canadian Seal Hunt stop in its tracks leading to the protection of seals? I know I sure would, but the problem is the current efforts to stop the seal hunt are too aggressive. Many organizations and individuals insult the hunters or call for a ban on seal products…Is this truly effective? It doesn’t seem so as the seal hunt continues every year.
So how do we stop the Canada Seal Hunt? Well first we must recognize there are two sides to the conservation process: the scientific/biological/ecology side where we study the species their habitats and identify priority areas to protect; and, second, there is the social/economic/political side where we need to convince the people and the government there is a necessity to protect the species and their habitats. One rationale for the seal hunt is that the seal population negatively impacts the recovery of Atlantic Cod, a food source of seals; however, studies from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans counter that argument after monitoring two seal populations in Nova Scotia and concluding the seal’s primary food source is not cod. So the biological side has it’s answer. The social side suggests the hunt is traditional and that is why it continues. This suggests that the issue will have to be dealt via the hunting community. So how do we approach them?
Many organizations use the aggressive tactic to attack the hunters and government by calling for bans on seal products and insulting the hunters. Effective? not to this point. Before I continue, I must remind you that I am a Canadian Marine Ecologist and as a Canadian I do not agree with the seal hunt. I also do not believe that personally attacking an entire group of people (such as all Canadians or all east coasters) an effective way to stop seal hunting. As a scientist, I believe that there should be a systematic method to determine how to either eliminate or ensure protection of seals in Canada within the hunting area. Actually, I think there should be a systematic method to conserve the entire population using small and numerous Marine Protected Areas throughout the Canadian Oceans that will protect seals, there habitats and other species, but that is a subject for an entirely different post.
Think about how you would feel if someone wanted you to stop doing something by insulting you. Would you do it? Probably not! You would get defensive and try to piss off the people pissing you off. So why is trying to protect seals and other marine mammals any different? This is how I would try to stop seal hunting:
1) Talk to the Hunters with Respect – Find out why they hunt seals and the history behind the hunt. Be respectful no matter how angry it makes you feel that they hunt seals. If you are respectful you might get the truth to why they are hunting in the first place. You might find out that the hunt is purely to maintain tradition or that some hunters sell the pelts to put food on their family’s table. When you speak with the hunters, or stakeholders, with respect then you gain their respect, which will create dialogue…the first step in a systematic conservation plan
2) Propose alternative solutions – If you want someone to stop hunting, then give them ideas as to an alternative living. You can’t expect hunters to just stop what they are doing and making money and not do anything else. You need to offer some alternative income ideas and perhaps provide training to willing participants. These proposals will go over well if you follow step 1 above and you have their respect. During fisheries management in small island states, conservation groups work with fisherman to layout a management plan on creating marine protected areas and creating alternative incomes for the fisherman who will be affected during the closures of some ocean areas. This second step will show the hunters that you have thought about them and how they will live in the absence of hunting seals.
I can’t say the two-step approach to stopping the seal hunt will work; however, I can say that it will get you further to conserving the Canadian Seal Populations than the current practice of personally attacking the hunters.
I think we (including me) ocean conservationists get caught up in the moment and get angry at the people killing sea life; however, we often fail to approach the issue with common sense and respect for the other parties. I do hope the Canadian Seal Hunt will stop one day soon, but I don’t believe the current efforts will quicken the process.