Sealers say they expect hunt that begins in N.S. this week will be lucrative

The Canadian Press ~ The News
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HALIFAX - Seal hunters are expecting the time they spend off Cape Breton this year will be much more lucrative than the last.
They have found a buyer for the full quota of 2,200 seal pelts for the Hay Island hunt, Robert Courtney of the North of Smokey-Inverness South Fishermen's Association said Sunday.
Courtney wouldn't identify the buyer or disclose how much per pelt the sealers would get, although he said it would be more than the $17 they received last year.
Only 200 pelts were sold last year, even though Fisheries and Oceans Canada had approved a quota of 2,500. It's believed a Newfoundland company, New Tan Furs Inc., bought the pelts as a gesture of support to the sealers.
Courtney attributed the full-scale hunt this year to the rebounding economy.
"This year looks better."
Thirty-nine men have signed up for the hunt, but only 20 are allowed on the small island at one time, he said.
The hunt was scheduled to begin Monday, but the sealers were still in the process of getting vehicles and equipment ready and didn't anticipate a start until mid week.
An anti-sealing organization plans to film the hunt and distribute the images to encourage a tourism boycott, a spokeswoman said.
Bridget Curran of the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition observed the hunt in 2008, when Hay Island first was opened for commercial sealing.
Sealers are prohibited from using guns on the small island, so they use clubs to kill the seals. Curran said she saw sealers herd the animals into a group before killing them, a practice that has been condemned as inhumane by agencies such as the European Food Safety Authority, Curran said.
"What I witnessed on Hay Island was the most horrific thing I've ever seen in my life."
Last fall, the coalition disrupted a legislature session to protest the Dexter government's decision to allow the Hay Island seal hunt.
The island is part of the Scaterie Island wilderness area. The province had to amend the Wilderness Areas Protection Act to allow the hunt.
Ecotourism activities such as seal watching would stimulate the economy more so than the seal hunt, Curran said.
Last week, the coalition asked Sterling Belliveau, the provincial minister of fisheries and the environment, to cancel the hunt, but he refused, she said.
Curran said changing the wilderness protection law sets a dangerous precedent.
"That land belongs to all Nova Scotians. It's part of our heritage and our culture. I think it's abysmal that the government handed over our land to commercial industry just to buy the votes of Nova Scotia fishermen."

Organizations: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition, European Food Safety Authority

Geographic location: Hay Island, Cape Breton, Smokey-Inverness South Fishermen Newfoundland Nova Scotia

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