What is a troubled industry to do in order to survive? Well, if you're a lobbyists for Canadian fisheries, the answer may be to simply massacre the competition. A recently disclosed proposal calls for the killing of a whopping 220 thousand grey seals to combat declining fish stocks in the waters off Nova Scotia--lobbyists say the seals have been eating too much cod. The details of the plan are quite nightmarish, involving the use of guns, clubs, incinerators, and even logging equipment to aid in the slaughter of unsuspecting seals, during nursing season, no less, when the beaches will be crowded with newborn pups. The proposed seal slaughter, according to a study obtained by The Coast, would be carried out on Sable Island in Nova Scotia, one of the species' main breeding grounds. It all stems from the fact that fisheries have been facing declines in fish stocks over the years, a reality they're blaming on the grey seals and not on their own activity. So industry lobbyists have urged the government to snuff out their competition, and the commissioned study confirms that officials are considering the grim plan.
As it turns out, killing 220 thousand seals over the next five years poses a logistical challenge. Rifles would be used to take down adults while pups would be bludgeoned to death with clubs, amounting to 100 thousand seals killed in 25 days the first year. Foresters, equipment normally used to collect felled trees, would gather the carcasses into dumpsters where they would then be set alight.
"At this production rate, a tandem dump truck would be filled with seals approximately every 10 minutes...seven hours a day for 25 days," notes the study.
Granted, as long as they're in the business of seal killing, Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) would much rather turn a profit from animal's parts than burn them, but the market just isn't there. So, The Coast reports, a spokesman for the DFO visited China to tout the taste of seal meat and to suggest that there may be some value in the animal's penises.
A slightly more humane alternative to the outright seal slaughter was outlined by the study. Instead of killing the animals, 16 thousand females different would be selected and sterilized each year for five years.
The uncovered proposal comes on the heels of what environmentalists considered a victory for the island's wildlife, reports The Coast. Recently the government decided to make Sable Island a national park, a designation that would add protection to its rich biodiversity. Just one caveat, though: seals wouldn't receive the same benefits.
Critics of the proposal see it as a futile attempt to manipulate the food chain. Mark Butler of Canada's Ecology Action Center, to the AFP:
If we start to kill seals to save cod, we would have to continue for centuries since fishing has been decimated by natural predators. It's a vicious cycle.
Proponents of the plan, however, are quick to point out that grey seal are not endangered, nor will the reduced population threaten the stability of the species. But, regardless of any benefit to the fishing industry the slaughter may serve, the notion of a government sponsored, systematic slaughter of 220 thousand wild animals should be a unnerving to all.