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Capelin fishing begins off Labrador, but not a word from Oceana Canada when seals involved

The province's commercial capelin fishery may be months away from opening, but harp seals were said to be load and go Monday off Mary's Harbour, Labrador. Which brings up Oceana Canada — the charity focused on oceans conservation that has Ottawa's ear on commercial fisheries, but no policy on seals, capelin's biggest predator. That alone creates suspicion about the organization's motives.

The stomach of a harp seal harvested Monday, Jan. 16th off Mary's Harbour, Labrador was full of capelin.

In April 2022 Oceana Canada called for the shut down of the capelin fishery to help rebuild the stock, but made no mention of the impact of more than 8 million seals (including 7.6 million harps) off Eastern Canada.

Keep in mind only 4,900 tonnes of capelin were harvested in this province's 2022 commercial capelin fishery.

That's a drop in the bucket compared to 1.2 million tonnes — DFO's last estimate in 2008 of the annual amount of capelin consumed by harp seals off eastern Newfoundland and Labrador.

In late November, SEA-NL published a post critical of Oceana Canada: Oceana wants tally of every fish caught in Cdn fishery; ignores impact of foreign draggers/seals

As I wrote at the time, it's a job not to be suspicious of charity groups like Oceana that “urgently" recommends the counting of every last fish caught in Canadian waters when they don’t breathe a word about the impact of foreign draggers that pillage migratory stocks outside 200 miles.

Nothing to say about seals either — other than baby harps are "adorable," harbour seals are "the cutest," and grey seals like to play peek-a-boo.

In reaction, Bob Rangeley, director of science with Oceana Canada, contacted me in December, and confirmed the organization does not have policies on the seal hunt, or foreign overfishing of migratory stocks outside Canadian waters.

So Oceana Canada calls for the shut down of fisheries such as capelin, and the counting of every last fish harvested domestically, while completely ignoring the impact of seals and foreign overfishing on domestic stocks

Oceana either doesn't know the full story, or chooses to ignore it — just the way Ottawa likes it.

Ryan Cleary,

Executive Director, SEA-NL

SEA-NL Seaward Enterprises Association of Newfoundland and Labrador (SEA-NL) is a professional, non-profit organization serving as the distinct voice for licensed, independent owner-operator inshore fish harvesters. You can read more about SEA-NL, and join us here.

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