Sable Island Grey Seal Slaughter

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Photo courtesy of Doris Potter

Sable Island is a spectacular band of grassy sand dunes, 42 kilometers long and 1.5 kilometers wide.  Three hundred kilometers southeast of Halifax, it’s home to a range of species from the Ipswich sparrow to the renowned “Sable Island Ponies”.  It is also home to the largest grey seal population in the world.

The Issue

Evidence of an emerging “Slaughter on Sable” strategy came to light in May 2010 with a report (discovered thanks to Access to Information) prepared for the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).  Titled Logistical Evaluation of Options to Manage the Grey Seal Population on Sable Island, the October 2009 report authored by CBCL Limited, a Halifax engineering firm, details a four year strategy to slaughter over 220,000 seals on Sable Island – and incinerate their bodies.

On May 18, 2010 the federal government and the Government of Nova Scotia announced their intention to designate Sable Island a national park.

We wrote to supporters in July 2010 informing them of a possible grey seal slaughter.

On September 22 2010, a number of animal protection groups, including Animal Alliance, met with Parks Canada to discuss our concerns.  At the time, Parks Canada indicated that the DFO said it had no plans for the Slaughter on Sable, saying the report was merely “routine contingency planning”.  Prior to the meeting we submitted a report to Parks Canada, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and the Ministry of the Environment, the result of reviewing numerous documents, including the following:

April 22, 2010 Canada-Nova Scotia Sable Island Task Group – Recommendation of Federal Protected Area Designation for Sable Island

March 3, 2004 Sable Island Preservation Trust Report – A Conservation Plan for Sable Island

March 1998 Environment Canada, Canadian Wildlife Service Report – Towards a Conservation Strategy

In October 2010, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Gail Shea, convened a symposium of scientists, mostly from the DFO, in an effort to show the negative effects of grey seals on Canada’s cod stocks.  Shea had to invite some independent scientists in order to give the symposium any plausible validity.  Many balked at the biased terms of reference.  It was scientifically and ecologically bogus to consider only “negative” effects of grey seals.  Independent (and even some DFO) scientists who raised objections about the symposium’s terms were soon disinvited and replaced with others.  Not surprisingly, the symposium’s final report by obedient government scientists outlined models to “prove” that grey seals must be culled to help cod recover.  This conclusion was reached in spite of evidence from around the world that rather than harming fish stocks, marine mammals actually enhance them.

In December 2010, Parks Canada produced a report, Sable Island: What We Heard – A Summary of Public Input (PDF, 1.5MB), that provides a summary of the input received, along with some background information and an overview of next steps.  The following is an excerpt from the report:

Protection of Horses and Seals

Sable Island has long been known for its population of wild horses. Many people commented that they are a unique and iconic feature of the island and as such their protection is of paramount importance. For those who commented on horses, all emphasized that the horse population should be allowed to remain wild with no active human management.

The island’s status as breeding ground for the world’s largest population of grey seals also prompted numerous submissions. Concerns about grey seals, and their interactions in the broader marine environment, have led the commercial fishing industry and the marine management community to explore possible management options. Parks Canada received hundreds of emails urging that seals and all other wildlife be protected in the national park and not subject to population control. Others expressed an equally passionate view that the national park designation for Sable Island should not preclude science-based management options, including population reduction.

By October 2011, Peter Kent, Minister of the Environment and Parks Canada, Peter MacKay, Regional Minister for Nova Scotia and Darrell Dexter, Premier of Nova Scotia, signed the agreement to protect Sable Island as a national park.  Despite Senate hearings about culling grey seals, neither Kent nor Dexter talked about protecting Sable Island seals.

In March 2012 Dr. David Lavigne, Science Advisor to the International Fund for Animal Welfare appeared before the Senate Committee, cautioning the Committee that jumping into a cull may have unintended and unforseen consequences.

Click here for Dr. Lavigne’s report to the Committee

Click here to watch Dr. Lavigne’s presentation

Again we wrote to supporters.  Our mailing was in response to the Senate hearings and the obvious anti-seal sentiment of many of the Senators.

What You Can Do

With your help, we’ll begin by holding the current Minister of the Environment, Leona Aglukkaq, accountable.  She is the minister responsible for Parks Canada, and she can veto the Slaughter on Sable.  Please tell the Minister that you pledge to boycott federal parks if there is a Slaughter on Sable.

The Honourable Leona Aglukkaq
Minister of the Environment
Les Terrasses de la Chaudière
10 Wellington Street, 28th Floor
Gatineau, Quebec
K1A 0H3

Tel.: 819-997-1441
Fax: 819-953-0279
Email: Minister@ec.gc.ca