The federal government is putting $5.7 million toward marketing the sealing industry, despite the hunt grinding to a halt.
The money, announced in the 2015 federal budget, will be dedicated to opening up new products and markets for the sealing industry.
The quota for the 2015 hunt is 400,000 seals, but in 2014 there were only 60,000 seals harvested.
The last seal pelt processor, Carino Processing of South Dildo, N.L., was subsidized by the provincial government to buy pelts.
Carino announced this year it will not buy seal pelts or fat this year, leaving a $1-million provincial loan on the table.
That leaves the industry effectively dead. Anti-sealing groups no longer bother to fly to Newfoundland and Labrador to monitor the seal hunt.
But the government is hoping the $5.7-million investment over five years can open up new markets, particularly in Europe.
That may seem an odd strategy, considering the European Union has banned seal products. Canada’s appeals of the ban were dismissed by the World Trade Organization.
But the ban does not apply to the aboriginal sealing industry, and part of the money will go toward creating a system to certify seal products from aboriginal communities. There is also cash for business advice and training for aboriginal sealers.
The money will also go toward reviving the broader seal hunt.
“It’s a battle of misinformation,” Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea said in an interview this week.
“You have animal welfare groups going around with little stuffed white baby seals and saying, ‘You know, Canada still hunts these seals.’ We haven’t hunted those seals in more than 30 years.”
Other uses for the $5.7 million include promoting seal products in Canada and researching new consumer products such as Omega-3 capsules from seal oil.
“I mean, a lot of people still have leather seat covers and they still have fur coats,” said Shea.
How much money there could be in those endeavours remains to be seen. In 2004, Canada exported $12.8 million worth of seal products. By 2010, the last year for which data is available, the value was only $2.2 million. The government no longer provides information on the value of seal exports.
The price of pelts fell from over $100 a decade ago to as little as $15 in 2009.
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