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