Seals are a valuable natural resource, and the seal harvest is an economic mainstay for numerous rural communities in Atlantic Canada, Quebec and the North. As a time-honoured tradition, Canada’s seal harvest supports many coastal families who can derive as much as 35% of their annual income from this practice. (Department of Fisheries & Oceans, http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/seal-phoque/index-eng.htm).
My father was a sealer, his father before him, his father’s father on down the family line since the early 1800′s. Like many rural Newfoundlanders & Labradorian’s the commercial seal hunt added to the viability of rural living, providing an additional source of income as the meat and pelts were sold to merchants to be shipped to the European marketplace.
The seal was a way of life for us. The meat was eaten, sometimes preserved. The flipper is still considered a seasonal delicacy today. Seal fat was rendered for oil to provide light for lamps. It’s interesting how the seal hunt correlated with the Industrial Revolution in Europe to provide much-needed oils, yet today the product is being banned. The seal skin was also used for clothing. I still have my seal skin boots from 14 Christmas’ ago. It was the last pair my father bark-tanned before his passing. I continue to wear them proudly.
We have a history that must be shared as we made and continue to make our “Home from the Sea”. This past winter I attended the Seal of Approval Dinner, where 5 of Newfoundland and Labrador‘s Top Chefs served up a menu of seal dishes, including seal oil ice-cream. Look out Ben & Jerry’s, as my mouth still waters at the thought of getting another scoop. The Home from the Sea Campaign is raising money to build a Sealer’s Memorial and Interpretation Centre in Elliston, NL (root cellar capital of the world). If you would like to read more or donate visit: http://www.homefromthesea.ca/
I believe seal meat should be available as a specialty item at our grocery stores and served at local restaurants, especially in tourist season. Whenever I travel to other countries I try localize food as much as possible. Last month in Iceland I tried Puffin with blueberry sauce. Moose burgers, stews, soups and poutine is a big hit, why not seal?
I’ve purchased a seal skin tie, multiple pairs of slippers, gloves, purse and a belt at GNP Craft Producers, visit www.gnpcraft.com to view their on-line store. As well, own a bark tanned wallet designed by Sabrina Lisa and bark tanned business card holder given as a gift too. While on Fogo Island at the Wind & Waves Artisan’s Guild, Joe Batt’s Arm, I bought a sealskin compact and seal skin cufflinks. The product possibilities are near endless.
On October 20th, 2o12 I visited NaturaL Boutique, which is operated by two locals from Rocky Harbour on the Great Northern Peninsula. They have a variety of what I would consider to be more modern seal apparel. You can visit their store at 152 Water Street, St. John’s, NL. They also have a booth set-up at the Avalon Mall in preparation for the Christmas Season. Their website is www.naturalboutique.ca.
I purchased a seal skin jacket from NaturaL Boutique, shown below with co-owner, Kerry Shears.
I will wear it proudly as I continue to support the Canadian Seal Hunt, the sealers who risks their lives each year as they take to the ice as well as the local artisans and crafters. We have a history and a future of sealing in rural Newfoundland & Labrador. Let’s continue to show our support for the industry.Live Rural NL - Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North
I am the proud owner of two pairs of sealskin moccasins or slippers as well as other sealskin products. Some people have seen me wearing the slippers at the Confederation Building over the past number of weeks. Santa did bring me a pair.
If you would like to get your own pair, GNP Craft Producers in Shoal Cove East on the Great Northern Peninsula can take your order over the telephone and ship your product. Visit their site at http://www.gnpcraft.com. Their prices range from $115-130 a pair depending on size. They also have children’s sizes and a variety of other products.
All items are locally made, by local people. This social enterprise continues to train and pass on the long-lived traditional skills of making sealskin clothing and boots. They have their own tannery, workshop and storefront.
Support local business, local traditions – let’s create larger local demand for sealskin products!
Live Rural NL -Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA The Straits-White Bay North
- Sealskin Slippers for Christmas? (liveruralnl.com)
- MHA visits GNP Crafts – Purchases Seal Skin Products (liveruralnl.com)
NDP Fisheries critic Christopher Mitchelmore (MHA, The Straits – White Bay North) says he and his party fully support the commercial seal hunt and he is excited about the potential for the industry as a whole.
“The sealing industry has always been an important aspect of the rural economy and I believe there is still tremendous untapped opportunity,” said Mitchelmore. “Value added business opportunities exist for rural residents, and indeed we already have successful businesses in the industry.”
Mitchelmore stated that when he meets with residents of his district there are ideas for new products but government will need to work with industry stakeholders to help these ideas develop into reality.
“The people I talk to haven’t given up on the sealing industry, and I haven’t given up on the industry. If we work together innovation is possible and good years will lie ahead for sealers and everyone who wants to make a living in the industry,” he said.
Mitchelmore says that while we must continue to work with the federal government to develop new foreign markets, we must also look to developing local markets. “I would really like to see discussions on developing the local markets. Government assistance is needed to help the industry create a plan to build on our humane and sustainable hunt,” he said. “We have to consider all ideas; for example can we reduce regulations for seal buyers in this province which would allow small scale production for untapped niche markets, such as for canned seal meat and bone fertilizers? Can we make it easier for restaurants to feature seal meat?”
The sealing industry has declined in value from approximately $40 million in 2003 to $1.5 million in 2011, largely due to declining export markets. “If we have strong markets here at home, local businesses will be better situated to develop markets around the world. And the one thing we know is that Newfoundlanders and Labradorians support the seal hunt,” Mitchelmore said.
- MHA visits GNP Crafts – Purchases Seal Skin Products (liveruralnl.com)
One year ago today, I introduced myself to the wonderful world of blogging under the name Live Rural NL. Over the past year I have scribed nearly 200 posts and have shared with you my rural life from heritage, cuisine, politics to vacations. I extend a big thank you for all my loyal readers for continuing to show interest in the potluck of articles I post daily as time permits.
The journey over the past 365 days was a learning experience as I became much more aware of the significant aspects of rural culture that surrounded my daily life. For instance:
- the tradition of soup Saturday with my grandmother, my love for fisherman’s brewis, figgy duff and Sunday’s Dinner.
- the significance of my grandfather’s folklore, his incredible riddles, quotes and jokes – sadly only the memories remain with his passing on June 6, 2010.
- I continued to realize how much I value the water and the importance of the fishery to our rural economy.
- I took a strong stance against Ellen DeGeneres’ views on the Canadian seal hunt, lobbied Governments for Broadband Internet access and asked for decision-making at a more localized level.
- I realized the nuisance a Moose can be on our roadways, but how delicious they are in a pot of stew.
- I learned how to traditionally hook rugs, paint using acrylics and also improve my photography skills.
- I spent time with family, playing games, telling stories, enjoying laughter.
- Locally, I visited most places on the Great Northern Peninsula, being a tourist at home. |This past weekend, I’ve re-visited again Conche, Englee, Roddickton- Bide-Arm, Main Brook, St. Anthony, L’Anse aux Meadows and Quirpon to tour with a friend. I’ve returned to St. Pierre-Miquelon-Langlade, Grand Bank, Marystown, Burin, Brigus, Cupids, the Irish Loop, St, Johns, Port Home Simpson, Mary’s Harbour, Lodge Bay, Battle Harbour and the Labrador Straits. Evident from the nearly 50,000 kms I have placed on my car in the past year.
- Nationally, I visited Toronto, Montreal, Halifax and Winnipeg
- Internationally, Mom and I visited France, England, Northern Ireland and Republic of Ireland last November to experience the Newfoundland-Ireland connection. I also travelled to Las Vegas, Los Angeles and Cuba.
- I joined Couch Surfing
- I met up with old friends and made new friendships
- I realized the importance of community and how everyone has a role to play and that we should do our best to contribute.
- I plan to visit Raleigh, Cook’s Harbour and Cape Onion this summer season. As well as return to many other places. As well, I would love to spend a weekend in Fogo, Ramea and St. Brendan’s. There must be something about island culture.
- Culture evolves and does not remain stagnant
- We have some of the best cultural assets in the world!
- There is immense opportunities on the Great Northern Peninsula, for those young and old alike.
- Include the community in the decision-making process. Local people have valuable ideas and contributions.
- The Great Northern Peninsula is an experience
- Live Rural NL!
To reiterate lines of my first post, “I have changed many times as a person as I progress through my twenties, but I realize that with the right attitude and efforts we can accomplish the unthinkable. Today my friends, I just want to share with you what it means for me to continue to Live Rural Newfoundland.”
Christopher C. Mitchelmore