Hon. H. J. Robichaud (Minister of Fisheries):
Mr. Speaker, I have stated on several occasions in reply to questions by hon. members that all aspects of Canadian sealing operations conducted off the east coast of Canada were being carefully examined with a view to bringing more restrictive regulations into effect before the next sealing season starts next March. I am pleased to be able to inform the house that new regulations to conserve the seal stocks and to ensure the use of humane methods were passed by order in council P.C. 1964-1663 on Thursday, October 29.
In view of the interest shown by many hon. members I wish to outline a few details of the new amendments to the existing seal protection regulations.
During the sealing season of March and April, 1964 newspapers and television stressed that very young seals were taken in this fishery and were killed with clubs. Unfortunately the inhumane aspects of the fishery were exaggerated by giving prominence to the few instances when inexperienced hunters did not kill the seal with the first blow. Hundreds of letters and petitions of protest were received from interested individuals and societies in Canada and the United States.
A month or two later another storm of protest arose when an erroneous article appeared in a German weekly newspaper which was widely reprinted by other European papers and, more recently, by certain Canadian newspapers. Indignation was aroused because the article stated that the seal herds off the east coast of Canada had declined from 20 million to 1 million animals during the last two years. The estimates of our scientists, based on aerial surveys and tagging experiments conducted for many years, indicate that the decrease has been from 3 million to 1J million animals over a ten year period. The feelings of humane persons were 20220-614
shocked by the statement that the animals were deliberately skinned alive in order to produce a more beautiful pelt. This statement was completely without basis.
Because of the widespread public concern I instructed officials of my department to examine all aspects of the seal fishery, including the considerable body of scientific evidence on the condition of the stocks, the effectiveness of the current seal protection regulations and their enforcement, and the methods used in commercial sealing operations. A meeting was then held in Moncton on May 20 with representatives of the Canadian sealing industry to discuss proposals to amend the seal protection regulations. A draft of the new regulations was prepared, and this was discussed again with industry representatives at a meeting in Ottawa on October 1. I then invited representatives of the major Canadian conservation and humane societies to meet with me on October 14 to obtain their views on the draft regulations. Careful consideration was given to all the views expressed by the representatives of these various interests.
The new regulations provide for much stricter control both to conserve the seal herds and to ensure against inhumane practices. To give better control over sealing operations, all vessels over 30 feet and all aircraft used in sealing will now require licences, as will all the seal fishermen they carry. As a conservation measure, the season for licensed vessels and aircraft will be shorter both in the gulf of St. Lawrence and in outer areas. To protect the mature females, which are most important for the maintenance of the herds, the killing of adults is now prohibited in the so-called breeding patches where the seals have their pups. To reduce waste it will be required for the first time that all seals killed in any one day must be landed ashore or on the sealing craft that same day.
The new regulations limit the use of aircraft for transporting sealers or skins to the gulf of St. Lawrence south of 50 degrees north, where their use is now well established, and in this area the number of young harp seals taken by vessels and aircraft will be limited to 50,000. This is an important new measure. To reduce inhumane practices the new regulations require that the clubs used
Regulations Respecting Sealing be long and heavy enough to kill at one blow, and that no seal shall be skinned before it is dead. The use of set lines with hooks for catching seals is also prohibited.
I am confident, Mr. Speaker, that these measures will assure the maintenance of the seal herds and will go a long way to reduce inhumane practices and waste. I wish to assure the house, however, that my department will maintain the closest possible surveillance of the seal fishery so that, if necessary, further restrictions can be put into force. During the coming season commencing early in March, 1965, our patrol of sealing operations by land, sea and air will be greatly intensified to assure that the regulations are observed. The results will be carefully studied.
At the request of major Canadian conservation and humane societies I shall provide an opportunity for representatives of these societies to visit the site of sealing operations and obtain first hand knowledge. After the 1965 season it is proposed to hold further discussions on the regulation of the fishery both with the industry and with the humane societies.
I firmly believe, Mr. Speaker, that these measures will maintain the seal herds and permit the Canadian industry to develop in an orderly manner. This industry is very important to many coastal communities dependent on the resources of the sea.
Subtopic: AMENDMENT OF REGULATIONS RESPECTING KILLING OF SEALS