Fink forecasts end of seal industry

Cory Hurley
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IFAW wildlife campaign director back in Newfoundland

Sheryl Fink, IFAW’s director of Wildlife Campaigns in Canada, gets a kiss from Barney at the NL West SPCA location in Corner Brook Tuesday. Barney is up for adoption.

Sheryl Fink is forecasting the demise of the seal industry, but how that happens should be determined by Newfoundlanders and Labradorians.

 “It’s not for a group like (International Fund for Animal Welfare) or Pam Anderson or anybody else to sort of provide the solution,” the wildlife campaigns director for IFAW Canada said during an interview at The Western Star in Corner Brook Tuesday.

“We need a solution that is made in Newfoundland.”

She says alternatives should be explored for rural communities to help them stay sustainable and keep the people living there.

Fink’s primary focus is ending the commercial seal hunt in Canada, something she has been doing for 11 years.

She is again in Newfoundland this spring, but again it is not to observe the hunt.

The industry has changed significantly over the years, ice conditions and a decrease in fishermen hav made the annual visit to the ice flows less effective than years ago, she said.

It was just two years ago, as she and her crew hovered high above in helicopter, Fink’s frustrations with little activity to observe and shoot footage of was publicized.

This year, she is in Newfoundland, with communications officer Andreas Krebs, to visit with supporters — of which IFAW has more than 900 in the province — and speak to people about what they see as the future for the industry.

Fink was in Corner Brook Tuesday, minus the helicopter and crew and even the bright orange or yellow IFAW winter attire for those trips to the ice flow, where she was able to make her rounds without drawing much attention, if any, to herself.

She did meet with members of the NL West SPCA, an organization which IFAW made a $5,000 donation a couple of years ago to assist with the more than 200 cats that were found in a home on the Corner Brook west side.

Fink shrugged off a question about whether she thought Newfoundlanders would be surprised the organization contributed to the local animal group. She said it was a pretty rare gesture made by IFAW overall to make a contribution to a humane society.

“They have done a tremendous job,” she said. “It was a tremendous burden placed on them in a short period of time.

“I am glad we were able to help out. Of course, I wish we were able to help out more.”

On the belief there is not a worldwide market for seal products — despite the millions of public dollars invested into the industry — there is a change in the approach of the IFAW toward lobbying for the end of the commercial hunt.

After years of heavy debate and controversy about whether it is a humane industry and a focus on the seal pup to collect sympathy, current attention is being placed on the sustainability of the industry. A soon to be released production has no blood shed, no mention of slaughter or inhumane practices.

It is an approach that’s more accepted these days, she says.

“If you do get that opportunity to sit down and talk to someone about the facts, a lot of people will start to question,” she said. “We can leave the cruelty out of it. You might notice we don’t even talk about cruelty that much anymore.

“We talk about economics, and what is the necessity of the industry, and how long are we going to keep subsidizing and bailing them out if there are no natural markets for the product.”

She says that approach has even been effective in discussions with people from Newfoundland, where she said polling has shown one in 5 people are at least questioning the support for the hunt.

A part of her visit to Newfoundland is to encourage some of those more than 900 supporters to speak out. However, she said she understands the intimidation that exists in doing that within their home province.

Fink claims to respect the tradition and heritage of the seal fishery, and believes that will not die with the demise of the industry. She also feels there will always exist a recreational type fishery for those wanting to hunt seal as a food source.

She says she has mostly found Newfoundlanders to live up to their reputation as the friendliest province in the country.

Organizations: Fund for Animal Welfare

Geographic location: Newfoundland, Corner Brook, Canada Western Star

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Recent comments

  • Seal
    March 30, 2014 - 08:45

    Time for Fink to check out her own part of the country and stay away from ours, educate yourself first before you push your opinions on others. Come to an area where men will be going to the ice for the hunt, I am sure there are many gearing up in Corner Brook, NOT.

  • Seal Hunt Supporter
    March 30, 2014 - 08:41

    Fink should come to an area where our men will be going to the ice for the hunt, I am sure that many many in Corner Brook are gearing up right now to take part in this years Seal Hunt, Fink should go back to her own piece of the country and stay out of ours. Time for Fink to educate herself on what is happening before she opens her mouth.

  • Dion Dakins
    March 28, 2014 - 07:51

    It is ironic that Ms. Fink now talks about "no natural markets" when IFAW has lobbied so intensively to close markets using images of whitecoats and selective video of hunting practices. Left to meet "natural market conditions" that still exist, the seal industry has improved the welfare of hunting practices, improved food safety protocols for edible products and ensured sustainability. With over 7.5 Million Harps Seals consuming more than 11 Million Tonnes of Fish we need a solution that ensures ecosystem health for our coastal communities. Important to note in the same waters East Coast Provinces and Territories catch less than 500,000 Tonnes of seafood!

  • Rob McIntyre
    March 27, 2014 - 22:57

    These groups have been claiming to be at the precipice to solicit funds for years. This shift in focus was actually caused by their failure at the European Food Safety Authority. IFAW provided seven seasons worth of footage to the EFSA for their December 2007 report and the EFSA concluded that "different observers may come to different conclusions after examining the same evidence".

  • Ira Gould
    March 27, 2014 - 16:48

    Feed the seals, starve the humans. Why not everything else is in total KAOS. Human beings top of the food chain and bottom of the "GENE POOL". Common sense out the window.

  • brad
    March 26, 2014 - 23:19

    Sorry,but her comments are some of the most self contradicting I have ever seen,wow

  • Henry
    March 26, 2014 - 12:52

    We do not need outsiders coming into our province telling us how to sustain a seal fishery we have been involved with for generations. We hunt seals according to regulations and do not want to cause any more pain then is required to this species.

  • Keith Cormier
    March 26, 2014 - 12:25

    Is this a news story or is it simply propaganda? I would ask this person to see life from the fisherman's point of view. To get up at 3am to work along side someone for a season, to feel the pull of the ocean, like their ancestors have done for almost 500 years. To understand that for many Newfoundland and Labrador fishermen, sealing is part of who they are, and what they do. Why not have someone show them how to cook a meal of seal roast. The riches protein on the planet. I am concerned that we continue to provide these people with front page coverage. Maybe Long side Dear Abby might be a more appropriate spot.