While visiting Foxtrap, N.L. this spring, I attended, out of curiosity, a training course for people who wanted to get a personal sealers license.
A personal sealing license is a license to kill a seal to eat — limit of six per license and the hunter is not permitted to sell the pelt.
This course was put off by Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The local fisheries officer started off by listing some of the things that they were not allowed to do and make the statement that if you break the regulations we will catch you and you will be charged.
That’s when I lost my cool, not something I do often and I had to have my say and then I walked out. I do apologize to the people who were there, but not to the fishery officer who was conducting the meeting. We have been hunting seals for 500 years out of necessity for food, oil and skins, by killing them by any means, muskets, shot guns, bats, gaffs, hakapik, spears, bow and arrows and whatever means possible — now that is no longer acceptable.
The government of Canada decided to get some veterinarians to draw up a plan of how to kill a seal humanely, thus the three-step process where you shoot a seal in the head with a high powered rifle, then when you retrieve the seal, although the seal is dead, you have to bash in both sides of his skull and then have to cut the seal open by both flippers. In other words you have to kill it three times, although we have been hunting seals for 500 years and have been trained by our parents, we apparently no longer know how to do it.
The reason I am annoyed with the DFO officer who was doing the sealing course was his attitude, which is typical of most of them — you do it the way we say or else you will be charged and taken to court.
To court many of our sealers have been taken and faced large fines from $500 to $2,500 for one seal by unsympathetic judges; while the anti-sealing groups are filling up their pockets with gold and laughing their heads off, our sealers are the ones being punished by the very people we elected to look after us.
If any judges happen to read this letter, remember we are an honest people, trying to provide for our families by working in a harsh and unfriendly environment.
Since the anti-sealing groups started their protest in St. Anthony in the late 1970s, they have been very successful in what they set out to do, making millions and destroying a way of life we have had for 500 years.
We have lost hundreds of millions of dollars to our economy in rural Newfoundland and Labrador.
We have an ocean in which we have upset the balance of nature by fishing all species to the maximum and allowing our seal herds to explode and eventually we are going to have a crash in fish stocks.
We will probably be having just a hunt for food this year with every DFO officer in this province out there chasing us around as if we were common criminals. At one time the DFO officers were our friends, not anymore.
(Ret) Capt. Wilfred Bartlett
Green Bay South, N.L.