Fraser, Pitt river seal hunt proposed in Lower Mainland

First Nations say fishing affected, DFO reviewing

There is a growing call for First Nations communities to be able to harvest seals and sea lions along the Fraser and Pitt Rivers for profit.

Thomas Sewid, with the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society, believes that a pinniped harvest is needed in order to save salmon stocks that are being depleted by the animals. Seals, sea lions and walruses, with flippers, are considered pinnipeds.

“Since the 1980s, the seal and sea lion population in British Columbia have exploded,” said Sewid.

“They are just decimating our salmon stocks. And then you factor in the low returns we’re getting this year,” said Sewid, adding that it’s a disaster.

RELATED: Scientists warn of ecosystem consequences for proposed B.C. seal hunt

He would like to see Fisheries and Oceans Canada allow First Nations communities to harvest and sell seal and sea lion products, “to help protect their salmon, sturgeon, trout, steelhead and everything else they are decimating.”

Sewid said that while under the First Nations food, social, ceremonial fishery, many communities have the right to harvest seals and sea lions, they are not allowed to sell the meat, barter it or trade with it.

“What we need is to get licensed,” said Sewid.

Once licensed, Sewid wants to see bands get authorization to close down parts of the river to the public for a certain period to allow hunters in high-visibility vests to remove the seals, although the method by which the seals would be killed hasn’t been confirmed.

“We want people with high-vis vests and radios and cellphone communication to cordon off the area, because First Nations are going to go in and remove the seals and sea lions,” said Sewid.

On Wednesday, hereditary Chief Roy Jones Jr. from the Haida First Nation approached the DFO to demand that they be allowed to sell seal products.

Sewid says there is plenty of interest from industries for seal or sea lion meat, oil, blubber and fur. The oil, he says, can be used in the pharmaceutical industry for lotions and pills for the high Omega 3 content, furs can be used for art and tourism industries, the meat can be used in the pet food industry and, he believes the high-end restaurant market would be interested in the meat as well.

He says it will be a sustainable and viable industry for communities lining the rivers.

Katzie Chief Grace Cunningham says there is an issue with seals impacting the harvest.

“I believe the largest population of seals are obviously in the ocean but when they are in our river they certainly affect our fishing endeavours,” she said.

She says the band has noticed it more in years like this year because of the depleted salmon run.

“We’re not able to get out as often as we would like or need to harvest our own and our fishers have to battle the seals to salvage their catch. The seals literally pull fish out of our nets, half eaten and or simply ruin the flesh,” she continued.

Katzie fisheries manager and councillor Rick Bailey said the issue is how to harvest the animals safely.

“Back in my grandfather’s day they used to just go out with a .22 and shoot them because there was nobody around. They used to get $5 per nose and they would just turn it into the Department of Fisheries in New Westminster and they would pay them in cash and they would go and buy groceries,” he said.

Now, added Bailey, there is too much activity on the river so that shooting the animals is not an option.

He has been trying to design a harpoon that can be safely used like a crossbow.

“Something to do it in a safe and humane way,” he said.

RELATED: Seal attacks kayakers off northern Vancouver Island

Bailey agrees with Sewid that the seal population has exploded.

“When we’re out fishing, we run our boats slow now because of the cost of fuel. You look out the window and the seals are swimming right beside you. Then as soon as you throw your net out they are just patrolling back and forth along the net picking out anything that they can get,” he said.

He compares the situation to a habituated bear. They are not feeding them but whenever they go fishing the seals and sea lions are out there robbing their nets.

Leri Davies with Fisheries and Oceans Canada confirmed that the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society submitted a proposal to commercially hunt pinnipeds under the New and Emerging Fisheries Policy.

Davies said the DFO takes an ecosystem-based approach to fisheries and oceans management to ensure that the best science is reflected, in consideration of the role seals play in a healthy aquatic ecosystem.

Seals and sea lions are an important food source for transient killer whales, also known as Biggs killer whales, Davies said by e-mail. This population of killer whale has been listed as threatened under the Species at Risk Act since 2003, she said.

She did say the DFO is reviewing the Pinniped Society’s proposal that has already resulted in several rounds of feedback. And consultations with academic experts in Canada and the U.S. will be ongoing.

Danny Gerak who runs the Pitt River Lodge, says seals are not the problem for declining salmon populations.

“They have been feeding on the salmon for thousands of years. Before we got here and there were lots of salmon,” said Gerak by email from the lodge.

He says the problem is people who are destroying salmon habitat, over fishing, polluting the rivers and streams, killing the spawning grounds with jet boats, allowing disease from fish farms and sea lice and allowing the Japanese and other countries to fish B.C. sockeye on the high seas.

“They’re the least of our problem,” he said.

Sewid says if the government doesn’t back a seal or sea lion harvest they are going to announce a First Nations cull on the entire coast.

“To hell with government. We’ll let them drag us off to court and we’ll prove, like we always do in Supreme Court that we win the dice roll with a 96 per cent success ratio,” he said.

Maa-nulth request seal hunt

David Wiwchar

May 28, 2019 07:58 am

Some Nuu-chah-nulth leaders are blaming federal mismanagement of seals and
sea lions for the chinook salmon crisis affecting much of BC’s coast.

Larry Johnson, chair of the Maa-nulth Treaty Society’s fisheries committee,
told Ha-Shilth-Sa Newspaper that they are looking to develop a plan that
brings back a controlled harvest of seals and sea lions.

Johnson said meat from the marine mammals was part of the Nuu-chah-nulth
diet for thousands of years.

He said the pinniped population has exploded since the federal government
prohibited hunting them more than 50 years ago.

First Nations, recreational anglers, and commercial fishers have all urged
DFO to look beyond simple fishing closures, and take a wider ecosystem
approach to restoring dwindling Fraser River chinook stocks.

93.3 The PEAK 3296 Third Ave., Port Alberni BC V9Y4E1

New group calls for seal and sea lion cull on B.C.’s coast

Some B.C. First Nations and fishermen want the government to establish a new seal hunt on the west coast. As Jill Bennett reports, their reasons for the new hunt are being met with skepticism by opponents.

– A A +

Members of the Tsawwassen First Nation are teaming up with commercial and sport-fishers on B.C.’s coast to call on the new federal fisheries minister to allow a West Coast seal and sea lion harvest. The group, called the Pacific Balance Pinnipeds Society, says that growing populations of seals and sea lions endangers future salmon populations.

“If we want to see salmon around for our next generations, we have to go out there and bring that balance to the animal kingdom,” said Thomas Sewid, the director of the newly established society. “To go out, harvest those seals, utilize the whole carcass so the meats are going to markets in Europe and China, the fat is being rendered down for the omega 3s.”

WATCH HERE: Pod of hungry orcas hunt for sea lion between boats

The federal government has banned the cull of seals and sea lions on the West Coast since the 1970s, which still exists on the East Coast. The group is hoping to have a change in policy now that Jonathan Wilkinson, the MP for North Vancouver, is the new fisheries minister.

“I think we are going to see the balance to our oceans and our waters come back in place because of that minister,” said Sewid. “He understands. He has been out sport-fishing. He has seen big fat sea lions tear salmon off his hooks.”

READ MORE: Sea lion pulls young girl into water off Steveston Wharf in Richmond, B.C.

Sea lions are known to be aggressive, not just to animal populations, but towards humans as well. Last May, a sea lion that swam near Steveston Fisherman’s Wharf snagged a little girl by her dress and pulled her into the water. There were multiple Steveston Harbour Authority signs posted at the popular tourist destination warning people not to feed the sea mammals that frequent the area.

But there is some disagreement on how large an effect seals and sea lions actually have on the fish populations.

Scientists at Ocean Wise say their research does not support the idea a harbour seal cull improves the abundance of Chinook salmon in B.C. The scientist describes the fish population as “complex” and that the seal population has recovered from historical culls, and is no longer increasing significantly.

READ MORE: Hunters call for more licences, possible seal cull to combat growing population off N.L.

“Studies show only four per cent of the harbour seal diet is salmon. Herring and hake are their primary prey, with hake making up about 40 per cent of their diet,” said a statement from Ocean Wise. “Hake is actually a big salmon smolt predator, so a seal cull could actually have the opposite of its intended effect: by reducing the number of seals, the abundance of hake would likely increase, resulting in decreased salmon numbers overall.”

We also have a healthy and growing population of transient, or Biggs, killer whales, which eat marine mammals like seals and sea lions. So harbour seals are already being culled very effectively without any human interference at all. Reducing the seal population in the Salish Sea would mean a reduction in food for transient killer whales.

READ MORE: WATCH: Sea lion feeding frenzy on commercial herring catch

Ocean Wise has also found that with an increase in transient killer whales, which eat seals, the population is expected to slowly decline over time.

But Sewid’s group has provided numbers from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans that show a massive population boom that needs to be controlled. According to those numbers, harbour seals in the Georgia Straight have gone up from 12,500 in 1987 to 45,000 today.

As for sea lions, those same numbers from the population grew on B.C.’s coast from 13,000 in 1984 to 36,140 in 1997.

The populations have slowed since the mid-1990s, and has been relatively stable since. One of the challenges Sewid says in convincing people that the animals should be culled is that they look “cute.”

“They don’t understand that seals and sea lions are eating hundreds of salmon fry when the fry are going out to sea, down the rivers and when the salmon are coming home to spawn, those overpopulations over seals and sea lions are eating all that fish,” said Sewid. “We have to bring that balance on.”

— With files from Jill Bennett

Seal of Approval

How an animal welfare charity ended up endorsing seal killing – and what this says about our age

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 19th Septmber 2018


As the drive for growth and profit intrudes into all relationships, it captures even the bodies that exist to hold capital to account. Agencies of the state, newspapers and broadcasters, campaign groups and charities that claim to restrain corporate power fall under its spell. As their mission becomes confused and their purpose dissipates, substance is replaced with spectacle.

Fifty years ago, in his book The Society of the Spectacle, the French philosopher Guy Debord argued that “the spectacle” (the domination of social relationships by images) is used to justify the “dictatorship of modern economic production”. It both disguises and supplants the realities of capitalism, changing our perceptions until we become “consumers of illusion”. Here is an example of how it happens.

On Tuesday last week, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) issued a press release about the “incredible story” of Marina, a seal it rescued, that had become trapped under a rock on a beach in South Wales. “Moving a three-tonne boulder presents numerous challenges, but we were able to work with partners to free this seal, before giving her the six months of rehabilitation she so urgently needed.” Marina’s rescue is “testimony to the RSPCA’s tireless commitment to wild animals, and their welfare.”

On the same day, the RSPCA’s head of campaigns, pushed into a corner during an online argument, wrote this: “Seal shooting is not culling it’s about humane pest control.” He was defending the slaughter of seals by Scottish salmon farms.

The contradiction is at first sight incomprehensible. But alongside its spectacular rescues of animals like Marina, the organisation has another role, which is to assess livestock farms, and award those that meet its standards its RSPCA Assured label. This seal of approval ensures that“you can feel good about your choice when shopping and eating out”. Of the 280 million animals whose production and slaughter it approves every year, salmon account for 200 million. The RSPCA accredits 63% of Scottish salmon farms.

It won’t publish a list of the farms it has approved, citing a “contractual clause in the membership agreement”. But of the 24 people who sit on the advisory group for its assurance scheme (according to the most recent published list), 20 work for salmon farming companies. These companies include the four named in an investigation into seal shooting in 2013, by the Global Alliance Against Industrial Aquaculture, as “the worst offenders”.

There is no closed season for shooting seals. When lactating mothers are shot, their orphaned pups starve to death on remote beaches. The RSPCA does not deny that farms it certifies shoot seals. It tells me it is urgently trying to bring the practice to an end. I might have found this more convincing if it hadn’t said the same thing in 2008. It also maintains that shooting seals is “a last resort”. But the majority of Scottish salmon farms fail to double-net their cages to exclude seals. This is more expensive than bullets, but you might have hoped it would be the minimum requirement for an RSPCA Assured farm.

The RSPCA tells me that “double netting is not suitable for all sites”, but is unable to tell me what proportion of the farms it certifies could use double netting. Where this method cannot be used, you might have hoped the society would say “that seals it: we will not certify salmon farming here.”

It insists that farms that want its accreditation that are at high risk of predation by seals must have “acoustic deterrent devices in place where appropriate”. These make a loud noise intended to scare seals away. Unfortunately, they also cause pain and distress to dolphins, porpoises and whales, disrupting their behaviour and driving them out of their feeding grounds. These are by no means the only problems caused by salmon farms.

Recent footage filmed inside a Scottish salmon cage shows fish being eaten alive. Much of their skin, flesh and fins has been consumed by sea lice, which have reached epidemic proportions on many farms. Sea lice are not only ripping through the caged population, where the mortality of salmon has risen from 7 to 14% in four years, but spill out to hammer the wild salmon and sea trout trying to migrate through the lochs, pushing their populations closer to extinction. Yet the RSPCA standards for sea louse numbers in the farms it certifies are no higher than the legal minimum, which fisheries scientists say is far too low.

In the hope of controlling this infestation, salmon farms dose their fish with organophosphate pesticides. These are likely to devastate crustacean populations in the sea lochs, and many other species that depend on them. Some of the companies providing the fish meal on which farmed salmon are fed trawl and grind up entire marine ecosystems, arguably causing greater environmental damage than any other fishing operation.

The harder you look at this industry, the more obvious it becomes that it is inherently incompatible with either animal welfare or environmental protection. Yet the Scottish government, which sees salmon farming as a crucial growth industry, wants it to double by 2030. It seems to me that the RSPCA’s assurance provides the necessary figleaf.

The RSPCA insists that it is not motivated by the fees it receives for certifying salmon farms. These, it says, “are ploughed back into the scheme’s running costs.” I’m sure this is true. The problem, I feel, runs much deeper: to my eyes, its mission seems to have slipped from preventing cruelty to modifying industrial animal farming. If its objective is to prevent cruelty, surely it should instead endorse the rapid shift towards veganism?

Marina is the spectacle: the actor in the spotlight, who helps to seal the RSPCA’s public image. The unapproved seals of Scotland and their orphaned pups, in the darkness behind the stage, are reduced to the status of pests. Debord defined the spectacle as “a negation of life that has invented a visual form for itself.” He was right.


Animal rights activists target Indigenous restaurant for serving seal meat
“A new petition by animal rights activists is targeting Toronto
restaurant Kukum Kitchen for serving seal meat on its menu raising ire
from Indigenous people who say their traditional foods are being
unfairly targeted.
““The restaurant claims they are the only restaurant in Toronto that
sells seal meat and we do not want this to become a new trend,” says
the petition from Care 2 organization.
““These are intelligent beings that do not want to die,” it continues.
“Please sign and demand that Kukum Kitchen take seal meat off their

Why Not Become a Sea Lion Advocate?

According to an MSN news article entitled, Golden Gate Bridge jumper says sea lion saved him, “A man who jumped off San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge to try to take his own life and was kept afloat by a sea lion said Wednesday suicide prevention was now his life’s work.”

Witnesses who saw the incident said a sea lion kept him afloat until the Coast Guard sent a rescue boat. Kevin Hines told MSN news, “I really thought it was a shark and I thought it was going to take off a leg and I was panicking. And then it just didn’t, it just kept circling beneath me. I remember floating atop the water and this thing just bumping me, bumping me up.”

One of the witnesses told Hines, “I was less than two feet away from you when you jumped. It haunted me until this day; it was no shark, it was a sea lion and people above looking down believed it to be keeping you afloat until the Coast Guard brought a ride behind you.”

Hines stated, “[Witnesses] saw me laying atop the water and being bumped.” He added, “This thing beneath me didn’t stop or didn’t go away until I heard the boat behind me.”

After all our species has done and continues to do to sea lions—hunted them by the thousands for their fur and oil while feeding their flesh to dogs or captive minks; vilifying and putting a bounty on their heads forDSC_0129 competing with commercial fishermen; and forcing them to perform as trained “seals” in the circus, etc.—it’s incredible that one of these “lesser” mammals would go out of his or her way to save a human.

If not for the sea lion keeping him afloat, Hines would very likely have gone under and drowned before the rescue boat arrived.  While it’s noble that he is now devoting his life to suicide prevention, if he really wants to be altruistic, why not advocate for the one who went out of their way to prevent his suicide. It seems to me that if anyone has a good reason to become a marine mammal advocate, he does—he owes them his life.

While the human population grows by 350,000 per day, Steller sea lions, dsc_0224whose total pre-persecution numbers were never more than 300,000, have been driven below 100,000 and are still in decline. In Alaska, the Western segment of Stellars is down to a mere 18% of their historic numbers. Meanwhile, starved California sea lion pups are washing up dead on the beaches.

Sea lions are still being scapegoated, branded and shot, all for eating fish—the only food they have.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson