Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Ahoy there Captain Watson, Calling Mr. McCartney, trouble on the western shores!

High profile environmentalists and celebrities may soon be flocking to the Northwest if word of a proposed seal cull should get beyond the BC borders.

While we don’t have the dramatic ice flow backdrops of Newfoundland and the Maritimes for the front page stories or television newscast visuals, the image of hunting grounds off the coast could very well mean that controversy could be ours very soon.

The Monday edition of the Daily News featured a call for a seal cull on the West coast, as a Skidegate elder proposes it as one way to counter the declining state of the salmon stocks.

Hereditary Haida Gwaii Chief Roy Jones Junior issued the proposal, suggesting that health benefits from the Omega 3 fatty acids found in seal oil could be one benefit of a wide scale seal cull, besides the potential of saving the salmon runs of British Columbia. He extols the virtues of the byproduct of seals on a website he has created to get his message out.
As for the damage that he feels the seals and sea lions are causing to the salmon fishery, he reaches back some twenty five years into area history to track the explosion of the seal population on the coast and sees a parallel with that to the current declining state of the salmon stocks in BC.

The concept of a seal hunt on the West coast no doubt would be a prospect that will cause no shortage of discussion from many sides of the debate. And should it ever come to pass would most likely bring many to the barricades and coastal waters of British Columbia.

The idea from Haida Gwaii was the front page story in Monday’s paper.

Booming population is hurting salmon stocks claims Chief Roy Jones Jnr.
By Kris Schumacher
The Daily News
Monday, August 20, 2007
Pages one and three

The beneficial values of seal oil will be well-known to the public someday if Skidegate Haida Gwaii Chief Roy Jones Jr. has his way.

The hereditary chief from the Queen Charlotte Islands has been campaigning to get his voice heard by government, health agencies, environmental groups and the public for number of years, but he doesn’t feel his message is being taken seriously.

As a leading local advocate for the health propents of Omega 3 fatty acids found in seal oil, Jones has seen first hand what it can do to alleviate numerous physical ailments.

“My wife has arthritis and we used to have to lift her off the chair to go to the dinner table and everything, and now she’s done it on her own the last three years,” said Jones.

“I’ve got a sister that (doctors) told us a year ago she had three weeks to live, she started taking the seal oil and she’s alive and well today. It just goes on and on, I could sit here and talk all day about these people.”

Jones believes that besides the fact most people see seals as the cute and cuddly puppies of the sea, the main reason seal oil isn’t a common remedy for Parkinson’s and other diseases is that big business doesn’t want the competition.

“We’re up against the pharmaceutical companies. I’ve even had a doctor ask me to leave the hospital. It was unreal, I just tried to talk to him about it,” he said.

“But we just keep on going. Some of the doctor’s that I work with, like Dr. Ferreidon Shahida in Newfoundland, have done really well with it, orchestrating Omega 3 fatty acid studies and nutritional functional foods.”

In combination with advocating what he sees as the miracles that seal oil can provide many suffering people, Jones is also concerned with the impact that seals and sea lion populations are having on the West Coast fisheries.

“I’ve been after Fisheries (and Oceans Canada) since the days of Tom McMillan trying to do something about the seals on the West Coast,” he said. “Back in 1981, we were down in South Moresby, a place called Lockport area. We went in and were about 14 deep and 100 yards long.”

“One of my uncles said ‘If this keeps up, you’re not going to have a fishery in 20 years. ‘Well so bit it, it’s now 26 years later and we don’t have the fishery we had going back then. The seals and sea lions have become a major part of the problem.”

DFO researcher Peter Olesiuk says that although seals and sea lions are protected under the marine mammal regulations, there are provisions for removing animals that are a nuisance, either because they are interfering with fishing activities or because they’re threatening other fishery resources.

“Whether seals or sea lions can be classified as nuisance or threatening is evaluated on a case-by-case basis, and it’s obviously a broad subject,” said Olesiuk.

“We have healthy seal and sea lion populations, both species have recovered from the 60’s when they were depleted by predator control programs and commercial harvests. Seals have been increasing since then and the populations have stabilized, and sea lions don’t increase as rapidly, so their populations are still growing.”

Olesiuk and other DFO researchers provide some of the factual information to plug-in to the management decision process, so that if there is concern with how many salmon seals are consuming, surveys and diet studies could be conducted to assess the situation. The biggest concern recently has been with harbour seals, the most abundant species on the Pacific coast, numbers increased rapidly during the 70’s and 80’s after being depleted by commercial hunting.

“Their diet varies by location, but they’re opportunistic predators and they’ll take whatever is locally and seasonally available,” said Olesiuk.

“For the most part, that isn’t salmon, it’s other things. However, having said that, seals can have localized impacts in certain rivers where there are depressed, threatened and endangered salmon runs.

“Our studies have evolved from broad studies to impacts on individual salmon stocks, and in some cases there can be these local impacts. But I think people realize that general population control would not be a very effective way of dealing with these localized impacts.”

Even though the chances of reintroducing a commercial seal harvest on the West Coast aren’t very good, Chief Jones is still optimistic that people will one day realize the health value seal oil can offer the public.

“What I’ve been doing is absolutely rewarding and if you look at my website PacificBalance.com, you’ll see a number of issues on there,” he said.

“We’re trying to break through to the marketplace, and it’s really tough. Nobody believes you until somebody tells somebody else about it. And if we don’t do something about the seals on the West Coast, there’s gonna be nothing left for our children.

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