Newfoundlanders and Inuit Celebrate Culture & Tradition

    OTTAWA, March 14 /CNW Telbec/ - Tomorrow in Iqaluit, Nunavut and
St. John's, Newfoundland, people who have relied on the sea for hundreds and
thousands of years for their survival will celebrate a culture and tradition
that has centred around the seal. With European countries moving towards bans
on seal products, Canadians are speaking out to try to avoid cultural and
economic collapse in rural and northern communities.
    "It is easy for people in southern Canada, the United States or a
European city centre to condemn people who hunt seals, based on graphic photos
and emotional statements," said Rob Cahill, Executive Director of the Fur
Institute of Canada. "This weekend, you will hear from real people who truly
rely on nature to feed their families and sustain their communities - proud
people who believe in conservation and animal welfare."
    The people of Nunavut will host a "Celebration of the Seal" in Iqaluit.
Event coordinator Aaju Peter of Iqaluit believes that, "People must understand
that Inuit culture is one of respect, but also that our economy is intertwined
with that of southern and European cultures. If seal markets collapse
internationally, our economy will be affected as well." European seal ban
exemptions allow for traditionally hunted seal products to continue to be
traded. "But," stated Peter, "many consider the use of a rifle or snowmobile
as non-traditional - so Europeans are now telling us that we cannot use these
tools to feed our families and earn cash income." Also expected in attendance
at the celebration are Premier Paul Okalik and other elected members of the
Nunavut Legislature.
    The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture in Newfoundland and Labrador,
the Honourable Tom Rideout, will join sealers, fishermen, their family and
friends in St. John's tomorrow to celebrate a people of the sea at "The
Swilers Ball". Eldred Woodford, President of the Canadian Sealers Association,
said, "I'm a sealer and a fisherman, and I'm proud of it. The sea provides
100% of my income and sealing about a third of that. People who paint me as a
barbarian have no idea what it's like to catch their own food and food for
people living on the other side of the planet. We support the work of
Independent Veterinarians and Sealers support good hunting practices."

    The Seals and Sealing Network operates under the Fur Institute of Canada,
a national non-profit organization promoting sustainable and wise use
principles. The Seals and Sealing Network is committed to the conservation and
respectful harvesting of the world's seal species through sound scientific
management and internationally accepted sustainable use practices. It
comprises government, Inuit, veterinarians, conservationists, health care
practitioners and Industry representatives. For more information, please go to or


    - The Northwest Atlantic Harp seal population, estimated at 5.8 million
      animals, has tripled in size in the past 20 years even while hunting
      has continued.

    - It has been illegal to hunt young "white coat" seals since 1983. A harp
      seal pup cannot be hunted until it is completely independent from its
      mother and its white coat has molted away.

    - A Canadian Veterinary Medical Association Working Group found the
      Canadian harp seal hunt to reflect good welfare standards, with 98% of
      kills comparing "very favourably" to killing methods used in North
      American abattoirs.

    - The seal hunt contributes as much as 30% of household income to
      families from Canada's out-port east coast communities, not including
      the food value of the meat. Processing of seal by-products employs
      hundreds of people in coastal communities for 52 weeks each year. These
      facts are all the more significant considering rural Newfoundland is
      one of Canada's poorest areas, with scarce economic opportunities.

For further information:

For further information: Aaju Peter, Iqaluit, (867) 979-1317 -
"Celebration of the Seal"; Anne Troake, St. John's, (709) 739-1522 - "The
Swilers Ball" ; Robert B. Cahill, Executive Director, Fur Institute of Canada,
(613) 231-7099

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