On March 21st, The Western Star newspaper broke a story of a “Treasured gift gone: Woman loses seal skin purse at border”. Nora Fitzgerald’s story of loss gained national national attention and was covered on all major news outlets. This woman had her seal skin purse confiscated at the border and was later fined $250 by the USA Department of Commerce.
The Western Star listed myself as a major proponent for the hunt, and promoter of seal products. I have taken strong stands against celebrities, citing, “our seal harvest is sustainable, humane, and well-regulated”. I was aware of the legislation, and stated there should at least be leniency for personal items. My seal skin boots depicted in the image below are those of my fathers. He passed away more than 15 years ago. The boots are still in excellent condition close to two decades later. These natural materials are environmentally friendly, no harmful chemicals are being used and they are all made by hand supporting local cottage industries and preserving traditional skills. I certainly sympathize with Ms. Fitzgerald, because I don’t know what I would do if I lost such a sentimental and functional item as my father’s seal skin boots.
The USA Marine Mammals Protection Act, 1972 lists seals as an endangered species. The regulation needs updated some 43 years later given the exceptional increase to seal population. The harp seal population has nearly quadrupled since the population lows of about two million seals in the early ’70’s. The seal harvest has been well-managed and annual quotas are allocated based on science.
In the House of Assembly, I pressed the matter with the following question:
Mr. Speaker, recent news show our seal products are confiscated at the US border for breaching the Marine Mammals Protection Act, 1972. The act inaccurately deems our seals as endangered. In fact, in 1994, the US amended the act to permit Alaskans to take seals.
I ask the Minister of Intergovernmental Affairs: Will he make representation to the federal government to ask the US to review the facts on the seal population that would permit a regulation change, given that our seals are surely no different than the Alaskan seals? Read more…
Members of our caucus are steadfast with support. My colleague, the Member for St. Barbe called into an Open Line radio show to explain this situation further and our MHA responsible for Fisheries and Aquaculture drafted a letter that had copies sent to the Federal Government.
Federal Minister Rob Moore, MP, who is responsible for representing NL interests at the cabinet level as our Regional Minister has answered the call and taken appropriate action. CBC reports:
Minister Moore has asked for the return of this purse and that the US Border Agency stop confiscating our seal skin products.
I applaud the actions of Minister Moore and encourage others to continue to be part of the on-going dialogue. Sealing is an important industry in Newfoundland & Labrador, that is culturally and economically significant.
For those wishing to purchase their own seal skin, can visit GNP Craft Producers, Shoal Cove East, a non-profit from The Straits-White Bay North www.gnpcrafts.ca Tours are also available and you can watch local people, make local products.
I’ll continue to be an advocate for sealers, for Newfoundlanders & Labradorians and Canadians as we advance the industry. It truly is part of the fabric of the Great Northern Peninsula and rural Newfoundland & Labrador.
Live Rural NL –
Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)