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     The following is an article illustrating "politics as usual" in the Canadian government when it comes to the seal kill and its environmental mindset overall.

New Democratic Party Chief of Staff Resigns because of his Opposition to the Canadian Seal Slaughter
Dr. Rick Smith, the Chief of Staff for the Leader of Canada's New Democratic Party resigned on January 5th because of his opposition to the Canadian Seal Hunt.

Rick Smith had only a week before, resigned as the leader of the Canadian branch of the International Fund for Animal Welfare to join the staff of Jack Layton, the leader of the New Democratic Party. His appointment to the position sparked a storm of controversy because of criticisms that his history of opposition to the Canadian seal hunt would hurt the reputation of the Party.

The attack against Rick Smith was instigated earlier in the week by Newfoundland NDP leader Jack Harris, who said he was "shocked and appalled" that Mr. Smith had been named to the job, given that he is the former leader of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), an animal rights advocacy group that has campaigned against the seal hunt. Jack Layton defended Mr. Smith as a "very skilled and generous individual," but said, "He came here to build something and he found, the way the controversy was unfolding, that he had become associated with an obstacle to that building process so he took, I think, a very big decision."

Mr. Layton said he and the NDP continue to support a sustainable seal hunt. One of Mr. Layton's central planks during his campaign for the NDP leadership was a pledge to work closely with advocacy groups. Katy Heath-Eves, a spokeswoman for IFAW, said the incident sets a bad tone for that relationship. "It's so unfortunate that it's a card that's in the pocket of some politicians and they're playing this card," she said, adding the group's own polls show most Canadians oppose the seal hunt. Mr. Smith had stepped down as director of IFAW to join Mr. Layton, but Ms.Heath-Eves said it was too soon to say whether he could return to his former position.

All the political parties in Canada including the Green Party are supporting the seal hunt although polls indicate that the majority of Canadian people oppose the slaughter.

This week on February 3rd, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans set the quota for the 2003 seal hunt at 350,000 seals, the highest quota ever set by the government. In 2002, the quota was 275,000. The actual kill was 310,000. Not one sealer was prosecuted for exceeding the quota and the government response to 35,000 killed over the quota was to raise the quota without any scientific justification.

Press Release: (Montreal Gazette February 2, 2003 Sunday Final Edition News; Pg. A9)

Seal hunt quota to rise for Atlantic, activists fear

Members of an international animal rights group say they are bracing for Ottawa to increase the quota for the Atlantic seal hunt tomorrow. Rebecca Aldworth, a campaigner for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said sources have told them Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault will set the quota at 350,000 a year for the next three years when he announces the Atlantic seal hunt management plan. The quota currently stands at 275,000 a year. "It's a deliberate extermination of the seal population," she said.

John Efford, the MP for Bonavista-Trinity-Conception, will join Thibault for the announcement in St. John's tomorrow. He said Friday he didn't yet know what the new quota would be, but he expected it would go up. "My position has been very clear on that over the years," he said. "We should have a quota tied directly to the market - whatever the companies need to satisfy their customers. If you put a specific number on it, then you give the animal rights organizations all that they need to be critical." That's only for the commercial hunt, Efford said. He will have more recommendations for seals at a later date as part of the all-party committee of MPs and Newfoundland legislature members lobbying Ottawa to keep the cod fishery open. The committee has said it is concerned about the impact seal predation is having on cod.

Aldworth said Department of Fisheries and Oceans numbers indicate the quota should be set at 257,000 if the seal hunt is to be sustainable. IFAW believes that number is a high estimate, preferring to place it at around 170,000. The organization's ultimate goal is to eliminate all commercial hunting.

(The Montreal Gazette takes letters at: )

Press Release: (Toronto Globe and Mail Story February 2nd, 2003 By JEFF GRAY Globe and Mail Update)

Fisheries officials will allow the hunting and killing of 975,000 harp seals in Atlantic Canada over the next three years
, Fisheries Minister Robert Thibault said on Monday.

No more than 350,000 will be allowed to be killed within any single year under the government's new management plan for the controversial hunt - but that is about 50,000 more than were allowed in the 2001-2002 season. "Seal management is founded on sound conservation principles to ensure harvest opportunities now and in the future," Mr. Thibault said in a statement. "Seals are a valuable natural resource that, when harvested sustainably, provide valuable income to about 12,000 Canadian sealers and their families." Mr. Thibault said was developed after consulting both sealers as well as environmentalists and seal-hunt opponents.

The population of harp seals - the main species hunted commercially - is healthy, officials say, with an estimated 5.2 million animals currently in East Coast waters, up from 1.8 million in 1970. Under the new plan, the government says, the herd's population will stay above 3.85 million, or 70 per cent of the "maximum observed size" of the herd, which it says is 5.5 million. And the Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimates that the herd will still have 4.7 million seals by 2006. In the second year of the three-year plan, officials plan a detailed population survey.

The hunt has long been a focus of protests by environmentalists and animal-rights activists, especially around the issue of hunting seal pups - a practice banned in Canada in 1986. In a statement released on Monday, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a California-based group opposed to the hunt, said that Greenpeace co-founder and anti-seal-hunt campaigner Paul Watson will be leading a delegation of supporters and celebrities to the region to "intervene and bring global awareness to this inhumane waste of life."

Mr. Thibault said the Fisheries Department will continue to monitor the hunt closely for any abuses. "Canadians place a high value on humane hunting practices," he said. "As minister, I intend to uphold this value, and ensure that the seal hunt is conducted humanely and in accordance with all proper regulations."

Environmental and animal-protection groups criticized Ottawa last spring when officials extended the seal hunt and allowed hunters to go over the stated 275,000 quota to take approximately 295,000 seals. Ottawa said the population was so strong that there was no conservation risk.

Under the plans announced on Monday, sealers will also be able to kill about 10,000 hooded seals, but there will be a continued ban on hunting them in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence. Small catches of grey seals will be allowed, but not in the Sable Island area. There will be no quotas for ringed, harbour or bearded seals, but hunting will be controlled by permits and licences. And the hunting of blueback seals will not be allowed at all. The government also said it will study the idea of "seal exclusion zones" around cod-spawning areas to help devastated fish stocks recover.

 There are several ways to get involved in helping stop or limit this barbaric annual slaughter of the Harp seals. Send letters to relevent politicians and newspapers, take part in petitions, or volunteer with an organization making a difference. See our special HELP section for ideas and suggestions.

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