Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans
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Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on 
Fisheries and Oceans

Issue 3 - Evidence - November 29, 2011

OTTAWA, Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans met this day at 18:12 p.m. to study the management of the grey seal population off Canada's East Coast.

Senator Fabian Manning (Chair) in the chair.


The Chair: It is my pleasure to welcome you to the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans. My name is Fabian Manning. I am a senator from Newfoundland and Labrador and chair of this committee.

Before I ask the witnesses to introduce themselves, I invite members of the committee to introduce themselves first.

Senator Patterson: Thank you. I am Senator Dennis Patterson, and I represent Nunavut in the Senate.

Senator Hubley: I am Senator Elizabeth Hubley from Prince Edward Island.

Senator Raine: My name is Nancy Greene Raine, and I am a senator from British Columbia.


Senator Poirier: Rose-May Poirier, senator from New Brunswick.


The Chair: We will be joined shortly by Senator MacDonald from Nova Scotia. He is en route.

The committee is continuing its study on the management of the grey seal population off Canada's East Coast and is hearing from the Seal Hunters Association of the Magdalen Islands. I want to thank members for their presence and travelling to participate in this process in Ottawa.

The association was formed in the 1960s and represents several hundred members who ply their trade on the ice floes around the islands. Three representatives are here today to talk about the role of the association, as well as its objectives and priorities. On behalf of the members of the committee, I thank them for accepting to appear today. You have some opening remarks, as I understand, and hopefully it will be followed by questions from senators. We look forward to what you have to say.

Gil Thériault, Director, Seal Hunters Association of the Magdalen Islands: My name is Gil Thériault, and I am Director of the Seal Hunters Association of the Magdalen Islands.

Ghislain Cyr, Member, Seal Hunters Association of the Magdalen Islands: My name is Ghislain Cyr. I am almost a groundfisherman on Magdalen Island and I work a lot with grey seals. I have a lot of experience with harp seals in Newfoundland from the 1980s to 2000. I worked a lot on the groundfish committee, around the gulf and the province. I am busy with that.

Denis Longuépée, President, Seal Hunters Association of the Magdalen Islands: I am Denis Longuépée, President of the Seal Hunters Association of the Magdalen Islands. I am very pleased to be here today to talk with you. I travelled with Senator Manning to Europe two years ago regarding the harp seal, to try to explain how it is important to keep our market for the harp seal. We are still working on it and the population is still increasing.

Today we are here to talk about the grey seal, which is another species. Mr. Thériault will explain problems with the grey seal and we will be pleased to answer questions. We also brought seal meat, which we will share with you later. It is not grey seal; it is harp seal.

The Chair: I am certainly interested in this conversation. It is my understanding that you have opening remarks and a PowerPoint presentation.


Mr. Thériault: Thank you for having us here this evening, Mr. Chair. I am going to make my presentation in French since I am a little more comfortable in that language than in English.

In the little PowerPoint presentation we have here, the question we start with is: is the grey seal a species unto itself? I think that if the grey seal was not a species unto itself, there would be no committee today. We would have simple solutions for a simple problem.

Let us start by looking at the official growth tables for the grey seal population. As we can see, in the 1960s we had a small population of 5,000 individuals that remained relatively low until the 1970s. It started to grow and the curve is now rising more sharply. These days, we are talking about a population bordering on virtually a half-million. I got the official figures from MAPAQ, the Quebec ministère de l'Agriculture, des Pêcheries et de l'Alimentation.

We can see the cod catches in the Magdalen Islands during that time. Look at the figures: 3,657 metric tonnes in 1991 for cod, and 16 in 2009; for ocean perch, 11,000, and in 2009 the figure was 122; and the American plaice catch, 523 and 6 in 2009. We could have continued along those lines for a number of species. This is all to show you that the two curves are not going at all in the same direction.

Next let us look at harp seal predation. Unfortunately, I did not find a table for the grey seal, but that will give you an idea of consumption: the commercial groundfish fishery in 2008 compared with animal predation.

When we are talking about the grey seal, the figures are conservative, according to fishers or people who go out to sea regularly. We have the scientists' figures, but often the scientists' figures are somewhat conservative. That is what we have here.

In the entire inner St. Lawrence fishing fleet, nearly 50,000 tonnes of fish and seafood were caught by the fleet in total. We also know that each harp seal eats a tonne of food per individual and the population is about 10 million individuals. We are talking about 10 million tonnes compared to 50,000 tonnes.

Someone might say, correctly, that the harp seal lives mainly in the north and comes down the river. So obviously the 10 million tonnes of food it consumes annually is not just in the gulf. However, for the grey seal, that population stays in the gulf, always eats in the gulf and does not travel. It does not migrate elsewhere. You are going to see some photographs in a moment and you will see that the grey seal is much larger than the harp seal. If the harp seal eats about a tonne of food a year, we may expect that a grey seal eats double that. And if we are talking about a population like we have just seen, which is in excess of 400,000 individuals, we are in fact talking about 800,000 tonnes of fish and seafood that are eaten every year, compared to a fishing fleet that catches 50,000 tonnes.

So you see the figures here? Saying there are no more fish and the cause is overfishing; hold on a minute! Yes, there is human predation. There have been mistakes and there are still mistakes. We have also seen bad management, but when we look at the figure of 50,000 compared to 800,000, we see there is really an animal population control problem, because we are doing a lot about human predation on the fish stock, but very, very little about animal predation.

I called my next point ``The problem with the science.'' I do not want to beat up on science. We need scientists and we have to work with them, but if we look, with a bit of hindsight, and consider the 1970s again, in terms of the harp seal, we have more statistics about them than about grey seals. The experts at the time, in the 1970s, the leading lights in this field at the DFO, Mr. Sergeant, Mr. Boulva and Mr. Montreuil, among other scientists, said that the optimum — and the word is important — the optimum harp seal population, the population being divided into several groups, was about 1.6 million. Today, scientists tell us that we have nearly 10 million and when we ask for a quota of 400,000 individuals, we are told it is too high.

In the same box, the scientists, the people who worked with us, the deans, said that 1.6 million was the optimum population, and beyond that it would be a problem. We have got to 10 million, and you are saying that a 400,000 quota is too high! There is no logic in this. And they bring us the N70 rule, which says that the largest population of a species observed should not fall below 70 per cent of that figure.

The problem with N-70 is that every time the population climbs, the N-70 climbs too. We would get to a population of 20 million and we should not go below 14 million, when they said it was 1.6 million in the 1970s?

I think that science and numbers are very important at a certain point, but we also have to apply common sense. In this case, we have dissonance.

I have another example involving science; it is important to listen to the scientists, but we still have to discuss things with them to see how they get their figures. When it comes to diet, we have spoken often with Mike Hamel; we asked them how they managed to know how many cod, for example, are eaten by a seal? They said that when you count the small otoliths found in the animal's head, the little bones that are not digested by the system, that is, we can determine how many cod were eaten in the last 24 hours.

When we talk to the fishers then, they tell us that unless a seal is desperate, it will not eat the head, because that is not where the energy source in a fish is found. And we have videos that prove that when a seal arrives in a shoal of cod, all it does is eat the belly.

Mr. Cyr: In this part, like the videos in Newfoundland we have seen, we often see that harp seals will dive deeper and bring the fish closer to shore to do what we call a belly bite, which means eating only the abdomen and leaving the rest of the fish at the bottom, while the grey seal will work more in shallow water and if it catches a small fish, it will eat the whole thing, but if the fish is of a certain length, it will leave the head, that is, the boney part.

So it is hard to determine what kind of fish it is, and particularly how old it is. With the grey seal it is somewhat difficult to determine these kinds of things.

Mr. Thériault: But the point of all this is that the work scientists do is essential, but when we get the figures, we still have to ask them about how those figures were arrived at. Sometimes we have the impression that common sense could help them quite a bit in their research.

Now, we are going to show you the gorgeous creature that is the grey seal. A lot of people are familiar with the image of the famous whitecoat, which has not been hunted since 1987, but which is still shown on the ``animal rights'' people's fundraising signs, and we also think it is very pretty. When we come to the grey seal, this is the kind of creature we are looking at.

Mr. Cyr, whom you see there, is the little fellow standing on the right of the seal, as we look at the image. This is on his boat. When we talk about a slaughter of 70,000 seals, that is 70,000 times what you see there. This is really something different from a quick slaughter of small mammals.

The photograph you are seeing now is from the sentinel catch.

Mr. Cyr: This photograph shows that in each region of the gulf, there are scientific catches, sentinel catches, that are assigned to the associations and to fishers to go and test the water and in particular to see the cod population. There has been a sentinel catch since 1995, and this problem was being reported even then. The data from the sentinel catches ordinarily relate to the fish that are not eaten. There are a lot of complete data, but very often we reported in our data, whether in Prince Edward Island or New Brunswick or the Gaspé or Newfoundland, to a slightly lesser extent, or in Nova Scotia, that we were losing a lot of fish because of the seals.

On those lines what you see is the sentinel catch, authorized catches with observers on board, with 2,000 hooks in a day. That is the only result we get in terms of the fish eaten. We are talking about cod, halibut and plaice. There is nothing left. So the results cannot contribute to the science because the seals have eaten it all. And in the same way, how do you want us to be able to fish ecologically when we have this problem?

These images were taken with observers on board. Everything is calculated. But how many years did it take before the department took these factors into account? This is always what happens. The entire fishery has become like this. Every time we fish with a hook or line, that is what happens. For the number of heads we take, we probably do not see the number of heads lost underwater. This is really becoming a problem for fishing.

Mr. Thériault: I am going to move a little more quickly for what comes next, but just to show you. We often come back to the harp seal problem, because it is the most well known species, the one that is most studied. But Canada has made a lot of mistakes in this whole area. I am talking about 1964, the big shock, the film Les grands phoques de la banquise by Serge Deyglun, which was seen around the world. And then in 1969, along came Brian Davis, who left the SPCA to create his own foundation, where he started to do fundraising. In 1976, with four members, they collected $800,000. A lot of people realized that it was quite lucrative to work on seals. That led, in '72, to the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the United States, which was enacted for no scientific reason. It was passed with no excessive protest from Canada. This was a big mistake. And we know what the situation has been from then on.

That involved a small group of hunters in the Maritimes. It was a very important hunt. It probably became a political issue in exchange for other things, but it still opened the door wide to something else.

In 1977, there was the well-known episode with Brigitte Bardot. The groups realized that involving stars in these causes could be lucrative. In 1984, the Malouf Commission came along, the second big mistake.

Once again, the whitecoat hunt, the industry's main source of revenue, was ended, with no scientific basis, in view of the public pressure. Once again, this was a serious mistake. In the beginning, serious groups came out against the hunt because they believed there were various kinds of abuses. Those groups all disappeared when the Malouf commission was told that the herds were not remotely in danger of extinction. The hunting methods used, the rifle and hakapik, were the best and most effective at the time. Organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace withdrew, saying there was no reason to be concerned, when there are other species genuinely in danger of extinction to focus on. The groups that remained are the ones referred to as ``animal rights activists,'' which opposed the hunt for no scientific or other reason.

All these mistakes that were made, with the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the weight placed on the Malouf Commission and the importance of stopping the hunt, gave those groups ammunition — so much so that today, in 2011, 38 years later, we have a trade embargo on seal products in Europe, again for no reason. The harp seal population comes to 10 million, and we are talking about 400,000 grey seals. There are about 500 monk seals in the Mediterranean. The species is becoming extinct and no one is talking about it. But here, the subject raises a hue and cry. This is completely illogical.

In any event, the big question was whether the grey seal is a species unto itself. If we assigned it the same importance as coyotes, wolves, geese, wild boars or any other species, the committee would not exist. We would be saying there are too many and there has to be a slaughter, period, because that is what we do with the other animal species. Where is the mistake? How are the grey seal and the harp seal different?

The ``animal rights'' activists have been tugging on heartstrings for nearly 40 years. A survey by TNS Canadian Facts a year or two ago showed that regardless of how well informed they were on the subject, 63 per cent of Canadians supported the seal hunt if it is done properly and for the balance of the ecosystem.

The ``animal rights'' activists are said to be divided into two groups: the manipulated and the manipulators. The manipulated make up a majority of the people who donate to this cause. The manipulators are the ones who know very well that there is a large seal problem and there is no problem, but this cause brings in $250 million a year for the four American groups. They make a lot more money from seals than we can.

The role of a government is to provide sound management, to make decisions based on facts, whether or not they are popular. That is why we are before you today. We are presenting you with facts and people have come to testify to tell you there is a problem with the grey seal. The problem has reached a point that if it is not solved soon, it will be too late.

It is somewhat bizarre for Canada to allow itself to be preached at by the United States and Europe on this issue. The only thing Canada can be criticized for in this situation is not controlling the seal population when it got too big. In the United States, there are considerably fewer seals. In Europe, there are almost none left. They have exterminated their seal populations. We, on the other hand, have a surplus. We could even send them some, if they would like.

As I was saying before, the issue is management methods, as is the case for all animal species. In the case of overpopulation, we do three things: introduce a predator and/or move some individuals to other locations and/or reduce the population through selective slaughter. For the grey seal, we cannot use the first two solutions. So that leaves only one.

This issue raises a hue and cry, when in the case of foxes, coyotes, wolves, deer, geese, kangaroos and a number of others species, when there is overpopulation, there is a slaughter.

The ``animal rights'' activists hammer home the message that slaughter amounts to a lack of respect. Obviously, this is not the case. Everyone is aware that since the dawn of time, every species on this planet has survived through the death of another species, be it animal or vegetable, and that is how it will always be. People like us who far from the big urban centres are very aware of that reality, which is the only way to live with dignity in those communities. We have people here from Newfoundland and all over the country. When you are not a building engineer, for example, and you live in the Magdalen Islands, there are facts of life that mean that you have to live off the resources around you. That is what we are trying to do. Failing to respect a resource like this puts us in a precarious position. No one is going to come and testify before this committee and say that we want to exterminate the grey seal. We want to control its population and restore balance in the ecosystem.

Our first choice is to use this resource. In the slide, we are showing what has been done with the harp seal. The potential of the grey seal is nearly the same. However, studies have to be redone, and mercury levels and skin density and type of fur measured again. While we are waiting, we have a major overpopulation problem that has to be solved. And in the process, we will do studies and we will exploit the resource. The potential is there.

We have brought our products with us. I invite you to taste them and examine them. You will see they are excellent products. Boots are made, omega 3s are produced. Studies have even been done on heart valves. Recently, we have spoken with scientists who say we could use seal as bait for crustaceans and lobster or crab fishing. In fact, we are starting to have problems there. There is less bait for fishing for crustaceans. If we take an endangered fish species to fish for lobster, we go to market with products that are traceable and we will be told we cannot use a species that is becoming extinct to fish for lobster, in spite of the value added. With seal products, the situation would be ideal. We could use bait from seal products, which exist in large quantities, and spare the fish species that are currently being used as bait.

The situation would be ideal. However, to do that, policies have to be approved. With the Marine Mammal Protection Act and everything that is going on to reduce the market, the job is somewhat difficult. Bizarrely, the ``animal rights'' activists blame us for having no market. There are numerous solutions. Those groups are both limiting our market and accusing us of not having a market.

In conclusion, controlling the grey seal population is not an option, it is a necessity. We are not wondering whether it should be done. We are wondering how to do it. The issue has to be examined. We prefer to use the resource. However, controlling the population must be the priority. If we do that, we would kill two birds with one stone. We would be creating jobs for seal hunters, we would be supporting a high potential industry, and we would be restoring the ecosystem, and at the same time giving work to fishers who have no work. This is a win-win situation.

Thank you for your attention. I hope I have not taken too much time and also that you will have some questions about this.


The Chair: Thank you very much. That was a very interesting presentation. I am sure it has piqued the interest of some of the senators around the table. As usual, we will go to our first question from our Deputy Chair, Senator Hubley.

Before doing that, I would like to welcome Senator Don Oliver, who has joined us since you gave your presentation. He is also from Nova Scotia, so we are delighted to have him with us. He is a great resource in many ways.

Senator Hubley: Welcome, and thank you for making a fairly long trip to come and give us your testimony this evening. I will ask you a few questions about the Magdalen Islands seal hunters association, if you do not mind. How many seal hunters are there in your association, or how many seal hunters do you represent?


Mr. Longuépée: In the Magdalen Islands, every year, 800 hunters get their licences. Out of 800 hunters, we can say that about 400 are commercial hunters who take part in the hunt every year. You do not have to be a fisher to be a hunter. Where we live, there are doctors who are hunters, and lawyers; anyone can be a hunter. You take a training course; it takes some time to get experience, so you go hunting with people and that is what enables you to become a hunter.

We, in the association, do not represent 800 hunters, because a lot of hunters are fishers who also belong to the fishers' association. But we all sit on the same seal hunt committee in the Magdalen Islands. I represent all the hunters in the Magdalen Islands.


Senator Hubley: Thank you. How would your association be funded?


Mr. Longuépée: Funding for the association is very difficult. We get help from our Quebec government, but through MAPAQ, the ministère des Pêches et de l'Agriculture, which has given us a grant to help us for the last two years. That is how we were able to hire Gil Thériault, in communications, to have a communications strategy to deal with the ``animal rights'' activists who have been hammering us for 40 years.

Otherwise, we sell membership cards. I work on a volunteer basis; I am a lobster fisher. I can tell you that I do many, many hours of volunteer work. It is not that I feel obliged to do it, but I really do feel anxiety when people treat us like barbarians in the Magdalen Islands. We are a small community; we have always grown up living off our fish resources. There was a time, for us, when the seal was our source of food. Since we were isolated during the long winter months and there was no transportation like airplanes, the only fresh food we had in the spring was seal.

For decades, the people in the Magdalen Islands survived off the seals. Then, the Europeans came and showed us that we could commercialize the seals. Americans, Bretons, Basques, everybody profited from the riches brought by the seals. Today, those same people are telling us we should not kill the seals anymore.

I have met several times with Sheryl Fink, who is in charge at IFAW. Last year, I came to Parliament in Ottawa and we made a presentation. We brought seal meat; everyone tasted it except her. I think it was out of respect for her work.

Afterward she came to see me, and I asked her why she had not tasted the seal meat. For 40 years, you have told us that we hunted only for the fur. Today, we are developing omega-3, we are developing collagen; studies are being done on heart valves, and we are still selling the fur. And she herself told me: ``We have nothing against you for the fact that you are developing the meat, but leave the fur on the ice floe.'' This lady was wearing lovely leather boots. I asked her what her boots were made of. She said it was synthetic. Synthetics are destroying our planet. They are petroleum that is being wasted and destroyed.

What we want, in the Magdalen Islands, is to make use of our natural resources. The seals are there; we are talking about 10 million individuals. At present, we are talking about grey seal overpopulation. Our goal is to reduce the population to preserve our fish resources. But if we can then commercialize the grey seal, we will be delighted because we like to be able to benefit from our resource.

At present, our goal is not to try to find markets for the grey seal, it is rather to reduce the population. I am currently on employment insurance for the winter because I cannot fish. If that continues, I will always be on employment insurance because I will no longer be able to work. The fact that we are here, that I have come as a volunteer to speak to you, is because I have concerns for my entire community.

I hope you are going to listen to us and understand that in the people's eyes, the grey seal is a problem; but for us, it is doubly a problem. They are in our fridge and we cannot stop them from eating any longer.

Mr. Thériault: Forty years ago the ``animal rights'' groups got involved in this issue. I think we have to make a clear point, which we could have done a long time ago, but we will never be able to make these people happy. Never. We have been trying to do it for 40 years. The methods and the quotas have been changed. In any event, realistically, and I have been observing the issue for a long time and have studied it from top to bottom, what they want is not to stop the seal hunt. As I showed you just now, they make more money out of it than we do. Their job is to keep the controversy alive, and that is how they raise money.

So we will never be able to make these people happy; they will always find some way of saying no, there is something that is not right. If it isn't the meat, it's the fur; if it isn't the fur, it will be something else. There will always be something. When I was talking a moment ago about sound management, that is the thing. Even though fewer than one per cent of the population are vegetarian, and even fewer are vegan, many of those people really do not care whether we eat meat or not. We are talking about a very small percentage of fanatics about this. The rest are all people who are misinformed. If we eat pork or chicken or whatever else, why not seal? Why not exploit the seals? Again, what is the difference?

At some point we have to make logical decisions to protect the coastal communities, the ecosystem and the fish stocks, and do what has to be done to control these populations, period.


Senator Oliver: Thank you very much for your presentation. I apologize for being late; I had another meeting to attend.

I was very impressed with the evidence that you have given because you have heaped give the facts for what I thought existed. With your knowledge and experience, it is very useful to hear it.

One of the things that you did say in your earlier presentation is that if we do not deal with it soon, it will be too late. It is the ``it will be too late,'' part that I would like you to elaborate on.


Mr. Cyr: Thank you for the question. When we say it will be too late, it has to be said that we have been talking about seals since the 1990s, and not just in the Magdalen Islands; it is in the entire gulf. We are talking about Anticosti, the Gaspé, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, the inner gulf, and also the outer gulf: Sidney, South Nova, Cape Breton; people are concerned about the grey seal problem all over.

When we look at our fishery problems, the results of the entire fishery we have had since the 1990s, the moratoriums, one after another, all species, what species are doing well in the gulf, except lobster? I do not know of any more.

Certainly, there have probably been problems with management. The fishers always want to fish, certainly. But today, with the cod moratoriums, the recruiting we see, particularly in cod, we see there is a problem somewhere. In the 1990s, there were cod that were big enough to lay eggs. We saw that all the small cod were disappearing. Something was going wrong. It was all very well to say that warm water or cold water or something else was the cause. Others like myself saw very clearly the problem of the grey seals for this resource. As I say, their territory, their nursery, the grey seals' playing field, is shallow water, 20 fathoms or less. But that is where all the small cod, under three years old, have disappeared. We no longer find any in our experimental trawl sets. There was a problem. The fishery was reopened, always in the same way, and the grey seal stock continued to grow. Its behaviour toward us changed. Before, it was the fisher chasing the fish; today, it is the grey seal chasing the fisher. This is called depredation. It often feeds off the fisher.

The other aspect, too, is that everywhere there is a concentration of fish, whether in the spawning grounds, concentrations of mackerel, of juvenile cod, that come to feed near the shore, on forage species, capelin, sand lance, all you see are thousands of grey seals.

Yesterday, I was talking to people in the Gaspé, fishing for herring on the Pabos Bank, in Miscou. They put their herring nets in the water and there were thousands of grey seals around them. They were everywhere, even in the river mouths. The fishers do not know what to do anymore.

We talked to people in Newfoundland who wanted to trawl for herring with their seines. They could not cast them. There were too many harp seals there. That has an impact on the herring because they will not come to spawn. They have to go to the seabed. There is a specific place. They go underneath. They push it.

Senator Oliver: What is the consequence?


What will happen if something does not happen? If they keep increasing in population, what is the consequence? Why will it be too late?


Mr. Cyr: A lot of species have already disappeared and it is going to be hard for their population to increase even if there were no seals. Imagine today, with the number of seals and the disruption in all the zones where there are a few fish, I do not see how we can increase the fish stocks. It is becoming almost impossible right now. Since the 1990s, we have been bringing all the problems about the groundfish to the advisory committee in Moncton, year after year.

I am the man who brought the seal head to the committee to tell them we have a fishing fleet that has never been represented on a committee, to get them to respond. A lot of people at Fisheries and Oceans laughed. They laughed, but they did not respond. We are keeping the same problem going now. We no longer know what to do.

If we do not respond, we are going to lose everything. There is a disruption in small cod. It is pushing the cod into waters that are really not suited to small cod. There is consumption and predation. If we think about cod parasites, what is it costing the industry to have seals? The parasites they give to the fish. We were talking about cod. I had an experiment at the department from 2008 to 2011, three years, during the moratorium. I checked cod livers this year. This year alone, there were three times more parasites. We never saw a worm in halibut during the 1990s. For the last three or for years, in all the halibut sides, we have started to see parasites. The parasites are everywhere.

This year, our government in Quebec invested a lot of money in mackerel for human consumption because it is an excellent meat, healthwise, because of its omega-3. We are starting to find worms in mackerel. Where will we end up if we leave the seals there? Newfoundland seal or harp seal, we were looking at them today with the people from there, if we leave the grey seal in our region, in the gulf and even on the southwest coast of Nova Scotia, we are going to lose all our resources.

This is the larder for the entire population of eastern Canada, and it is the only one they have. They cannot grow carrots and lots of things in Newfoundland. That is not reality. The soil is really not suited to that. Yes, certainly, they are going to eat potatoes in Prince Edward Island, but you cannot feed seals with that. That is the reality.

There is something that can be done and we have to start right now. We do not really have big plans in our heads because we have a grey seal problem. There may be commercializing to do, but we absolutely have to start somewhere and that is where we are. We absolutely have to start somewhere to save our communities.

As Denis said, I have been doing this as a volunteer since the 1980s. No one has ever given me a penny. To testify before committees, I have to travel on a volunteer basis, as an expert. That is not reasonable. I do not do it just for myself. There are young fishers coming up behind me. I do not see where those people can possibly find a place because we are not solving problems when they arise. If we talk about precautionary approaches with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, they should have done it 10 years ago when they started to say it existed. We would not be here.

Mr. Longuépée: When we talk about worms we find in fish, it is from marine mammal excrement, seal excrement, that falls to the sea bottom and is eaten by the fish and causes worms. Previously, they were found only in cod, and today they are being found in all fish species. If we prefer to let the seal population grow, there will be more and more and we will no longer be able to commercialize any products in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Mr. Thériault: I would like to make a comment, If we go back 50 years or so, Ghislain can talk about it better than I can, but fishers worked practically year-round. Those people stopped for a month in the winter, maybe.

Mr. Cyr: They started working on the water in early March, with the seals, and I never saw them finish before November 15. Every day of the year, there was something to fish. First, in that era, it was less complicated because you got a licence in the spring and went out to fish as you liked and you fished all year. Today, with the fishing conditions, everything there is to fill out, it is different. And there is no fishing anymore.

Mr. Thériault: It is shocking because the population of the Maritimes sometimes looks like welfare recipients, but these people have been pushed into that and they keep on being pushed.

The grey seal is one of the problems. It is not ``the'' problem. There are still other problems and there will be other problems, but it is always driven by inaction. A fishery is closed here and another is closed there and another over there. You end up with people who ultimately, in a year, are happy when they work 12 or 14 weeks. That is absolutely unreasonable.

Senator Poirier: Thank you for your presentation, gentlemen. I have a few questions to follow up on what we have heard. Just now you explained the reason why there were worms in the various fish now when there were no worms before. Is this because of the arrival of the grey seals or did this problem already exist with the harp seals?

Mr. Cyr: If we look just at the 1980s, the number of grey seals was around 10,000, 12,000, and we have seen a direct increase in terms of worms in cod. The line followed the same curve.

In Newfoundland and Labrador, in the inner gulf, they caught cod and took it to the Gaspé this year, and it was processed. It took several people to remove the parasites.

They took the cod from our zone, by the Laurentian Channel that goes all along the Laurentian Channel and goes through the inner Gulf. They had to hire a lot more people because there were 10 times more parasites in the cod flesh. And if you came to the coast where we live, it is even worse. Because often, there are so many parasites that when you do a fillet, the fillet is so atrophied that there is only one solution, and that is to throw it back in the water. This makes no sense. As well, it is affecting other species. As we say back home, sometimes you made plaice fillets. And they say that when you make the fillet, you put it on the table, it moves all by itself. That is not reasonable.

Mr. Longuépée: The harp seal comes to calve in the St. Lawrence Estuary and the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador, but it never stays year-round. So the impact of the excrement is not the same. There is virtually none and also the water is so cold when they come that the larvae do not develop in the same way as the larvae from the grey seals, which are there in the summer, at a time when the water is a lot warmer. So it is a lot easier.

Senator Poirier: What do you think is the cause of the rise in the grey seal population?

Mr. Longuépée: The lack of management by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada. There is no predator for the grey seal in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The only predators are human beings.

Twenty years ago, the government realized that the grey seal population had started to increase. They then gave out licences to try to contain the population. At the time, that worked. The fishers, the hunters, were paid. If someone went fishing and saw a seal, they had to bring back the jawbone and then the people were paid. That was done for about 25 years. It was abandoned after that, with the European ban and everything that followed, and that is where it stayed.

Since then, I am neither a scientist nor a fisher with enough experience with the grey seal to know everything that has gone on. That is why we take experienced fishers who have been on the ground for 40 years. They are the ones who have seen the growth in the herd. Myself, I am a young fisher. Before, we fished for fish and today we fish for seals. Because they are always after our bait. Before, it was not like that. We have really seen an increase. They say that normally there should be a predator. There are sharks. Where I live, we prefer not to see them because we have beautiful beaches and in the summer we lay on the beaches. There are not a lot of sharks. There are some from time to time, and when there are, sometimes they get caught in the net. But there are not enough sharks to count and to work on the grey seal population. So the population is still growing.

Senator Poirier: You say that human beings are the predators. Are human beings the predators for the grey seal today? Is there an authorization, a quota, an entitlement to hunt?

Mr. Longuépée: At present, Ghislain is hunting with his scientific licences to take samples and determine the age, the consumption, and a lot of things. But as fishers, we are entitled to get a licence that is called a nuisance licence. If I am fishing for halibut and I have a seal around me, it is impossible to fish for halibut. What I can do is kill the seal and then I can keep fishing. I am entitled to do that.

For us, our main goal is not to hunt seals, it is to fish. But when we have a nuisance alongside, we do not have the option of doing that. For years, we have been telling the government that the seal population has to be reduced. Before, you did not see grey seals around boats. You saw them in a few places. But now you see schools of them. Sometimes you can say 100 individuals together following the boats, because they know they are going out to fish. They no longer have to chase the fish; they chase our boats. The only boat they are afraid of at the moment in the Magdalen Islands is his boat. They recognize the sound the boat makes, because they know he is entitled to hunt them more than we are.

Senator Poirier: Earlier you talked about various seal products that have commercial potential. I imagine we are talking about the harp seal.

Do you think there is a potential market for grey seals, such as the products you showed here, and a possibility of research you are currently doing with heart valves?

Mr. Longuépée: For 40 years, we have been fighting to try to develop our products. But we always have the ``animal rights'' groups against us. Today, we have managed to get products like omega-3s, collagen, heart valves, meat and fur. It comes from fishing businesses and hunting businesses, to develop these products. It has taken us 40 years. If we want to do the same thing with the grey seal, where is the problem? To the Canadian government, the seal is a fish, and to the provincial government, the seal is meat. So what we are proposing is that it is neither a fish nor meat, it is a marine mammal.

Then the laws then become a lot less strict. For fish, you are allowed to eat tuna that has a small amount of mercury. That is reasonable in fish, such as mackerel or certain other fish. So little is eaten that there is no problem for human consumption. If we talk about it as meat, you cannot have a percentage of mercury. On the whole problem of commercialization with China, we are constantly talking about what seals are. Are they fish or are they meat? We say they are neither, they are a marine mammal. To solve our problems, we have to start specifying that a seal is a marine mammal and then we can manage it as such. Starting from that, when we talk about marine mammals, it will be much easier for us to commercialize them. I have some seal meat, but I am breaking the law because ordinarily, I am not entitled to cross provincial lines with it. I tell myself it is not a big deal; I am doing it for the senators. You are more important than a lot of people.

It is fine. There is no problem. It meets Quebec standards. But to commercialize it outside Quebec, it cannot be meat, it has to be fish. You have it at the Parliament of Canada, and the head chef of the Parliament of Canada goes to buy it in Gatineau, because he cannot buy it in Ontario. When we talk about commercializing a product, the government has to help us. We are ready to commercialize it. We have been working to develop our products for 40 years. People treat us like barbarians, but in the very near future we are going to save human lives with our heart valves. The collagen is used to heal burns. We have omega-3s that are no longer found in fish. All we need is for the government to help us. There are so many opportunities, when you think about China, we could not meet the demand there alone.

Mr. Thériault: You ask whether there is commercial potential. It is enormous. It is unbelievable, the commercial potential. Is there a market? That is another question. There are precisely a lot of factors apart from the fact that it is an excellent product. There are all the bans, the image question, the regulation question, and so on. There are a lot of spokes in the wheels.

But if you ask whether there is potential and whether it is a good product, it is unbelievable, it is almost a miracle product.

Senator Poirier: Mr. Thériault, you mentioned that the people who are opposed to the seal hunt make more money that the fishers. People hunt bears, they hunt moose, they hunt deer. We do not hear these kinds of protests. So at the end of the day, is more a matter of the almighty dollar than anything else?

Mr. Thériault: Totally, 100 per cent. I said that earlier and that is what I think. If you study the issue properly, you will see that is really the case. There are hundreds of thousands of people being manipulated by disinformation campaigns who will give money for causes that are not causes, probably to stop feeling guilty about a lot of other things. The species is not becoming extinct. The way it is slaughtered is better than slaughterhouses. They know all that, but they continue mounting campaigns to save the baby seals.

Baby seals, we will agree, is more marketing. No one says ``baby cow'' or ``baby horse.'' In fact, someone from Newfoundland said that every time he heard ``baby seal,'' he asked, ``Do you have a human puppy at home?'' If you use ``baby seal,'' you can then use backwards logic and you realize it is a little bizarre. People do not ask the question, everyone says ``baby seal.''

These people have been engaging in disinformation for 40 years, to the point that, once again, we are holding a session on it today. If it were any other animal, we would not be doing it. We would be saying, ``There are too many; kill them.''

Mr. Longuépée: You talked about hunting moose and deer. There is no other hunt for which people are allowed to go out and film the way we are filmed. The government has allowed these people to come and film us. The regulations require that they be 10 metres, 30 feet, away. Today we use rifles that shoot from a mile away, and these people are allowed to come and film us standing 10 metres away from us!

First, we are stressed from the conditions of the hunt. And second, we are stressed because if there were an accident and one of these people got shot, very certainly they would say we did it on purpose. Hunting accidents happen everywhere. No one is guilty when there is a hunting accident. But on the ice floes, we are faced with these people every day.

I was in Europe with Senator Manning, and I saw my friends, live, hunting seals in the Magdalen Islands. They were doing a professional job, and there was nothing bad. But according to the people in Europe, this was a scandal. Certainly no one likes to see an animal get killed. I am a hunter and the first seal I kill, I feel a little twinge, but I know I am not doing it for fun. I am doing it because I am bringing meat home, I am earning money, I am supporting people, I am healing people.

When you think that Rebecca Aldworth, the president of the Humane Society — a president in Canada — earns $500,000 a year, that is more than your salary, more than the salary of the prime minister of Canada and more than the salary of the President of the United States! It makes no sense that these people earn more money than we earn from it. Somewhere, people prefer to give money, like Bob Barker who gave $5 million — a blank cheque — to help Paul Watson, who had lost a boat in Japan. These people are disconnected from reality. That is our problem today.

Mr. Cyr: I would like to add something on the subject of the market, if I may. We do a lot of work to send products to China and elsewhere. I think that if we could just remove the barriers in Canada so seal products could be available everywhere, it would be fantastic. We are talking about seal oil, omega-3s, which are good for heart problems. Why send it to China when we North Americans have more heart problems? We would have a market here, all around us. Let us start by developing the product at home; if it becomes attractive here, it would certainly also be to others.


Senator MacDonald: Thank you for coming this evening. I do not have a lot of questions because I do not disagree with you on anything. Growing up in a fishing community I have seen the devastation caused by factory freezer trawlers off of Louisbourg for 35 or 40 years. I have seen ships coming into Louisbourg with 230,000 yellowtail and 60,000 bycatch cod, and three or four plants working. There is nothing left. It happened for generations because government bureaucrats in Canada sold the people out to foreign governments. This is just another example of what has happened for decades.

I was in San Antonio this summer. I turned on the television and saw an anti-seal hunt advertisement, and they were showing whitecoats. This is what we are up against. In some ways we are up against ourselves. The Government of Canada must take a stand on these industries on behalf of the fishing communities, the sealers and the East Coast of Canada.

There are many questions raised with regard to providing markets for these products, but I am of the opinion that, regardless of whether we can find suitable markets at the present time, we have to do something about the numbers of these animals. If these animals were just culled and allowed to go to the bottom as lobster food, what would happen to them?

Mr. Cyr: They would go back to nature.

Mr. Longuépée: If you open them, they will sink right away. If they are unopened, they will float and come to the beach.


Mr. Thériault: One of the problems we have with this issue is that we always fall into a grey area. That is the case with the grey seal, we fall between the cracks.

I think that the federal government and the provincial governments in Canada need a department of marine mammals. Then we could say, correctly, ``Here, it is neither meat nor fish, it is a marine mammal and we have our own rules for it.'' There is a lot of talk about controlling the population, but that would mean we could save populations that are genuinely becoming extinct, such as the narwhal or other species of whale.

We have a big problem at the moment. There are people in the department who want to help us, but they tell us they are sorry because their hands are tied. They cannot help us because we do not fall into any category; we have a structural problem.

What we are proposing today, what would be really worth considering, would be to have a department of marine mammals at both the federal and provincial levels.


Senator Patterson: I would like to thank the presenters for their passion and knowledge. I am grateful that we have real experts before us.

I represent the Inuit of the North who have survived for thousands of years using the seal for food, clothing and heat. These are people who hunt with respect and they, like you, are terribly offended to be described as savage, barbarian, inhumane and cruel. It is a deep source of anger and embarrassment to the Inuit that they are so misunderstood by campaigns that are motivated largely to collect money. I was very grateful for the information you provided about the amount of money that is collected by the activists. I think it is something our committee may want to look into further.

I believe you gave the figure of $250 million that was raised by four animal welfare organizations, and you had some evidence about the salary that was paid to the president of the Humane Society.

Mr. Thériault: Yes. There was a little mistake there. Rebecca Aldworth is not paid as much, as far as I know. He was referring to the president of the Humane Society of the United States, HSUS, because they are a public organization. The previous president was paid something close to half a million dollars. The new president makes a little less than that. Then again, they have all sorts of freebies, expenses, retreat money, et cetera. It is always hard to pinpoint exactly. The figures we have show they are well paid.

Mr. Longuépée: I would say that there were four groups before, and now there are almost 20 anti-sealing groups. Everyone tried to get money from the seals. It is easy. You just put a picture on the Internet and you get money. Everyone does it.

Senator Patterson: I am finding myself agreeing with what you said today, that the cull is maybe one option to deal with this hugely increasing population, but that your preference would be to have a sustainable harvest. Certainly, this is the way it has been with the people of the North.

I am wondering if you have any advice for us, or further thoughts, about how Canada could support a commercial harvest. What could we do, as a government, to develop the potential of this marine resource? I know Canada has a strategy to encourage mining. We have strategies for agriculture and forestry. There does not seem to be a strategy for this other wonderful, rich resource that we now have in abundance.

Do you have some further thoughts about how Canada could develop this resource? What are the next steps?


Mr. Thériault: There are a lot of spokes in the wheels in this issue, whether it be the regulations or marketing, and also the public image, which is a major problem. The way the government could help with this would be to sit down with us and talk with us for a half-hour. We would have 20 suggestions to give them.

I will give you an example that has been joked about a few times. If the government of Canada decided to give the RCMP seal gloves and hats instead of having other animal species, probably there would be enough for the market. They would need go no farther.

The issue is not so very difficult to solve, but it takes political will; it takes people who are visionaries and who are going to take the issue seriously, because once again, we do not even have a department of marine mammals. We do not even have that. That is the basic thing. We cannot sit down with anyone because there is no one handling this issue. There are people who handle the fish that are at the bottom of the food chain, but the thing at the top of the food chain, there is no one handling that at all.

And ideas like the one I just mentioned could be applied to lots of other things. We know the benefits of omega-3s that could be made available in the schools. The products are not even available. Once we start working on an image and we say it is proper to control a seal population, the seal is not the gods' chosen animal, it is an animal that is part of the food chain, part of the ecosystem, like all of us. There is overpopulation, let us use this resource, and this is how we can do it.

Another example: a lot of egg producers feed their chickens fish oil so the eggs contain omega-3s. You must have seen advertising campaigns about this. Scientists have proved that omega-3s from seals are higher quality. There is an additional HPA particle, and also it oxidizes more slowly. Research has proved it. But poultry producers will not do it because they are afraid of campaigns that could hurt their image, that might say they killed baby seals to sell their eggs. That is a simplification, but that is how it is: no, we are not going to touch that!

We were talking earlier about a company that made animal feed. Senator Hervieux-Payette said it could be worth seeing how this could be used with animals. As well, as we know, we give it to our animals in the Magdalen Islands. They have beautiful fur and they love the taste. But is a company going to make that switch when there are advertising campaigns like this? I am not sure they want to take that chance. It is like a snake eating its own tail. We have to move ahead publicly and educate people, and tell them this is the reality.

Study after study has been done. They are killed in the best way possible. Sorry, it is a public slaughter, it is not pretty, we apologize, we would like to do it inside four walls, but it is very difficult. But these are the results, and these are the products we can offer you, and they are excellent. Then there would be more and more people who would go beyond the signs and would be interested in trying it. There would be a market.

Mr. Cyr: Would it be possible today to make seal products available to all Canadians, since it has been proved that they are very high quality and very good for human health? Is it possible to make them available to all Canadians? That is the top priority.

Mr. Longuépée: Remove the barriers. At school, I was given cod liver oil. We had to take supplements every morning. If omega-3 is so good and we are trying to develop products in China to sell them, why not given them in the schools, and children would have fewer heart problems later? I have no end of ideas. We just have to take down the barriers. For the meat, there are people in British Columbia who call us to get seal meat because they saw a chef working with it on television. We tell them we are going to send you a sample, but you are not allowed to sell it, that is illegal. This is ridiculous, that we are not able to market the product here at home because our provinces cannot agree, they have different views about what constitutes food.

Mr. Thériault: Once again, we understand you have been sent products. Someone who does not eat commercial chicken, pork and beef, I am not sure they will appreciate seal meat. But it is a marine mammal, so it is game.

But there is a good chance that a curious person who likes wild boar or deer or venison is going to love this product. This product is not going to replace pork, of course. It is a high-range product that some game lovers and gourmets will want to try and may even incorporate into their diet.

Mr. Longuépée: It is a product rich in iron.

Mr. Cyr: The difference between seal meat and beef is enormous. In the 1930s, some people asked why people living in the north did not have vitamin C deficiencies when they ate practically no fruits or vegetables. So what was this miracle? The miracle was found in meat from seals and marine mammals.

Mr. Thériault: In the fat.


The Chair: I will use my position as chair to butt in for a moment. I want to get some clarification on cross border. With some products I know that there must be a federal inspection. Why can you not take the product from Quebec and sell it in Ontario or elsewhere? Can you explain that a bit more? I think there may be some confusion over that. You understand that issue fully, do you?


Mr. Longuépée: I am going to tell you about my province, Quebec. We come under the ministère des Pêches et de l'Agriculture. That department manages both fish and meat. Outside the province, seals are not considered to be fish, they are considered to be meat. In the federal government's eyes, seal is a fish. The Quebec standards respecting the commercializing of seal meat do not apply outside Quebec. I still do not understand why that is the case. All the fish plants come under federal regulations and have to undergo inspection by the federal government. For the province, it is MAPAQ that legislates on the subject.

As I told you earlier, there must be no mercury levels in meat. However, seal has a mercury level similar to fish. That rate is considered to be acceptable in the case of fish. However, since seal is treated like a meat, it cannot be commercialized or exported.

We asked whether it was possible to use fish plants to process seal meat. We were told that fish plants are not allowed to process meat. We therefore have a serious problem, for the government to define this product. It is neither fish nor meat. It is a marine mammal. The only way we can start solving this problem is to have a clause on marine mammals. Today we are talking about seals. In 50 years, the beluga stocks may have recovered to a high enough level in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that we will have to hunt them. No one knows what the future holds. But we have to be able to benefit from our natural resources, whatever the product. The present situation is different.

We live in a small community. There is only the specialized butcher shop Côte-à-Côte, in Quebec, where they make seal-based products. In Newfoundland, they had flipper pie, which was a more regional product. The problem for them perhaps did not arise. We are starting to export the product and the other provinces are interested in doing the same. In China, everyone wants meat. So we have to solve this problem, and first, identify the product.


Is that better?

The Chair: Somewhat. We were trying to figure out where the seal is fished and where it is eaten. I will use your province as an example, as the three of you are from Quebec. In Quebec, the seal is considered ``a fish.''

Mr. Cyr: No it is a meat.

The Chair: When it crosses the border, is it considered a fish?

Mr. Thériault: It depends where.

Mr. Longuépée: No because in Quebec, in the Magdalen Islands, we do not have any federally approved plan for meat. That is why we are unable to export our product. In Newfoundland, if you have a federal plan for meat and it is already approved by the federal government, you can probably export the seal. It is crazy, but it is like that.

The Chair: That is for sure.


Mr. Cyr: In Newfoundland, seal has always considered to be a fish. Where I live, it is meat. We are stuck with these regulations. In the 1990s, when I worked for the Canadian Sealers Association, in Newfoundland, for seven or eight years, we had this problem and they did not understand. You question makes me laugh a bit because we always fought for the provincial government to give seals a particular status, for it to be considered to be neither meat nor fish, in order to be able to export it at least from one province to another. Newfoundland could do it, but not us, and things have not changed.

It is not reasonable that today, with the development in Newfoundland and all the products that can be derived from seal, for us to be unable to sell this product at home, in Canada, in the normal way.

Mr. Longuépée: It has now been a year since we asked for a meeting with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency so it could consider the question, and I am still waiting.


The Chair: Thank you. I think many members of the committee, including myself, are interested in those comments. It gives us another level of the concern we have in trying to develop this industry in our own backyard, to take it to other parts of the world.

Senator Patterson: That was the very question I was going to ask. I appreciate you asking it.

I wanted to ask one more, if I may. As you say, we are dealing with misinformation now. It seems that the animal rights groups — who have been targeting us with an almost obnoxious amount of email communications since we started this study — are blaming the decline of the cod on overfishing and foreign fishing.

Do you have any comments on that? You talked a bit about the history and the decline of the catch. Is foreign fishing a factor in your region? Is overfishing a factor in your region? They are telling us, ``Do not blame the seals; it is human intervention.''

We want to get the facts. You are on the water. What is the truth?


Mr. Cyr: The resource management agencies, the fishing industry and the communities are not above reproach. The stocks were managed in such a way that, starting in the years when the 200-mile zone was established, all the big foreign fleets were put outside the area both along the Newfoundland coast and along the Gulf Coast. The areas outside the international zones were located about 12 miles off the coasts, and this meant that they were coming into the Gulf and doing more or less what they wanted.

The big fleets were taken out of the gulf and they were replaced by even more powerful ships. We saw a few Canadian ships. I remember a time when the government, through the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, allowed Newfoundland, Nova Scotia and everyone to catch large quantities of fish.

Of course, during a certain period, in the 1990s, the communities wanted longer fishing seasons so they could receive employment insurance benefits. Pressure was brought to bear everywhere in eastern Canada, certainly. Myself, I told them that if we fished in order to get employment insurance, the next year social assistance would be waiting for us. Unfortunately, that is what happened.

Around 1993, at the time of the first moratorium, there was still a certain biomass of cod; there were still cod of a certain size. There were relatively large spawners in the water. The moratorium was lifted in 1999, when there was still a good stock of fish. What were missing were juveniles; the recruitment that was not to be found.

During the same period, the management method in some areas led to fish losses. They were being managed species by species. That is still being done and it is a problem, a real problem. We do have to change our way of managing the fish because what we have done to date is not working. There is serious work to be done.

At the same time, the story of the quotas caused a lot of dumping and waste. Some was to be expected, but not to that point. When you think about the whole cod stock we had, the broodstock and all that, in relation to the rise in the grey seals, in relation to the loss of the juveniles, we know there is a serious problem.

You can easily see 100 grey seals arrive one night and sweep through the whole area, pushing the fish, eating fish on the surface and everything. Before, you saw one seal, it was an individual; then you started to see small groups of 10 or 15 or 100 or 200 or 300. They were no longer hunting in the same way. They looked like a pack of wolves. They learned to hunt over time. With fish being scarce, they continue hunting in a different way.

In all the areas where there are fish, as I was saying, there are grey seals. Everywhere there is a concentration of fish, there is a large concentration of grey seals as well. How to bring the cod stock back to a normal level when there are always grey seals in the vicinity? It is difficult. It is impossible.

We have had a moratorium since 2008. I fish for groundfish. I have lost 50 per cent of my earnings, and when I see the seals continuing to consume like that, I have a problem.

I can no longer feed my people at home. I have a problem seeing the grey seals continuing to consume juveniles. The scientists consider a 35-centimetre cod to be a big cod; to me, a big cod is 50 or 60 or 80 centimetres. That is a big cod. That is a good layer. That is good broodstock.

We also have to find a method of managing so that the fish have a first spawn. If the fish do not manage to have a first spawn because the grey seals eat them, that is very difficult. We are going to have to look at this some other way. Can we keep the large broodstock? What do we do to preserve the small ones so one day they become large broodstock? We have to look at this. We are realizing that the problem is one of recruitment.

Miscou is an amazing spawning ground in early July. Where are the grey seals in early July? On Miscou. It is all of that together that you see in the water. We are always on the water. We have not studied in this field, but we have spent all our lives with our eyes on the water. We see all these things. This is impossible, we cannot continue like this. We are destroying all the stocks. We are destroying the ecosystem as a whole. We have to stop managing in a vacuum. We have to think globally. All the species are related to one another. We have to work that way. I am anxious for people to start thinking that way.

Mr. Longuépée: Fishers do bear a share of responsibility; there has been overfishing and bad management, but in spite of the moratoriums, the cod are not coming back and we are starting to understand, with the scientists and the fishers, that the grey seal has a direct impact on this state of affairs. We are realizing that even if we stop fishing for life, there is a predator there that will continue, that goes places where the fish ordinarily go to lay their eggs, that is going to go and disrupt them. We know that fish choose the water temperature and places to spawn, and the seals are always there to disrupt them, and that alters the entire ecosystem.

Mr. Thériault: The seal is a worse manager than DFO, if that is possible. We must not forget that we are talking about an omnivore and it is not going to allow itself to starve to death. It will eat algae, if it has to. It will eat lobster, if it has to. It will eat tree bark, if it has to. It is not going to allow itself to die.


Senator Patterson: You talked about the video that shows the harps eating the small bit and the greys eating the belly. Can you tell us where we can get that video, either now or later?

Mr. Longuépée: It is on YouTube.

Mr. Thériault: It is on our website. I gave the clerk all the information. On our website, there is a link for it.

Senator Patterson: Thank you.

Mr. Longuépée: It has happened in Newfoundland.

Senator Patterson: Thank you.

Senator Raine: Could you give the website for the people who are watching on CPAC? Would you mind putting it up so that people watching the program today will have it?

Mr. Thériault: The website is or

Senator Raine: For my own information, you say that when the scientists count the fish in the stomachs of the seals, they count the small bones in the head, and that is how they know how many fish have been eaten. They know, I guess, the age of the seals. You are saying that they are eating many others by just eating the belly, so they are not eating any head bones. Is that right?

Mr. Cyr: If you are talking about harp seals, they are the ones that eat almost all the bellies. That is what they call ``belly bites.'' Most of the time, it is more in deep-water, like down to 50 or 60 fathoms. In Newfoundland, inside the Gulf, you can see that quite often. They are also pushing. The experience I have had is that sometime the harp seals arrive in big herds, and they push all the fish right up to the shore so that the fish pile up and pile up. They keep them on the bay and just go around and bite and bite and bite; they eat almost everything.


Mr. Thériault: It is much easier for large fish like cod than for small fish. But a fish like cod is bigger and slower, it is much easier for them.


Senator Raine: What I am really getting at is this: Are DFO scientists talking to you and getting your information?


Mr. Cyr: If you would not mind, I will just finish up on the belly bite question. The belly bite is what the harp seal does. If we are talking about the grey seal, you will often find otoliths from small fish. But the big fish, like cod that are 35 or 40 or 45 centimetres, often do not eat the heads. And they will find otoliths from small species, like mackerels, herring, and so on. But we must not forget that during the time the seal is eating, it is killed, it is gutted and it is frozen, digestion continues. It digests very quickly.

There is probably no one here who has put their hands in a stomach as I have sometimes done. It is very acidic, it burns your entire skin. The fish skin is completely putrefied. It is so acidic that it is burned very rapidly. It is often very difficult to determine the species, except within quite a short time, three or four or five hours before it dies.

So this is very difficult. I know that when we talk about the science, the time it takes to get the data. I work a lot with fishers in nearly all the regions. We exchange information, we tell one another what is happening, and where. It is very difficult to determine consumption by the grey seal.

To get data, there have to be data crosstabulated with other scientists, there have to be a lot of other factors so that you will get relatively accurate data. But it can never be 100 per cent accurate; that is impossible.

So it is by observation, by crosstabulated data, that we will be able to determine a ratio, but it is not easy.


Senator Raine: I was asking the questions because we receive lots of emails from animal rights people. They always say that the science is not clear and that some scientists say the seals are not causing the stocks to decline, et cetera. It has been good to hear from you people who are observers of what is happening.

I want to take a completely different tack and ask how we could reduce the herds? How would you go about it, because it is not that easy to kill seals?

Mr. Cyr: To kill harp seals, we work on the ice. It is hard to go there because you have to sail through the ice, which is quite dangerous and risky.


If we are talking about grey seals, the hung is much harder. It often takes place on water, on small islands, like the one we saw earlier, like Corps-mort; it is very small. You may get to a small island that may have 300 or 400 or 1,000 grey seals on it. The beach is full of seals, you cannot even see a grain of sand or a rock.

But you just need to fire a single shot, land the dingy on the beach, and they all get back into the water. You have to work on the land and on the water. Sometimes you lose some because some thin seals will sink, particular in the summer. At this time of year, they are fatter, so they float a little more. So we always have to work around these events. Not one seal is going to put its head above water; it is a little like a crocodile. You almost have to be a sharpshooter to get them. You have to be a very good shot. So you never want to put the worst shooter in the prow; you want to put the best one there.

All of it is very difficult. When we said earlier that 10,000 were killed in a season, that is all regions together, not necessarily just the Magdalen Islands, and per year.

That is why we have to start immediately. And I think that in places where hunting is allowed, there will perhaps be a few less seals and that will give the fish in those areas a chance. It is a lot more complicated than the harp seal hunt.


Senator Raine: Do you think it is possible?


Mr. Cyr: It is possible, but I think it is up to us to find specific places and ways. All that has to be determined. In our area, we know the specific places. Today, we are talking about specific places, but before, you found grey seals on Corps-mort, on Île-Brion and some on Rocher-aux-Oiseaux. Today, you find them on the beach at Pointe-de-l'Est, along the beaches on the north shore of the islands, at Pointe-de-l'Ouest, and there are also some on Île d'Entrée.

What sometimes worries me is seeing children walking along the beach or swimming, and there are 700- or 800- pound grey seals right beside them. I think how with one move they could catch a child.

These are things that can happen. There are people who have sent dogs into the water with a dummy and the dogs did not come back, there was always a grey seal that drew them out to sea. They had to take a boat out to look for the dog, or they would have lost it. It was playing with it, but that is how it is.

Mr. Longuépée: In British Columbia, there was a child that was dragged into the water by a sea-lion.


A young girl was playing close to her father on the dock. The seal grabbed her. She was lucky because she had a life jacket on and she came back.

We do not talk about those problems to resolve our problem. We have a problem to decrease the population. If you give us the opportunity, we will find a way to do it; but we have to have you guys behind us. If the government is not behind us, no one will believe what we are doing. We will be the barbarians again. I went to Newfoundland and to British Columbia, where everyone is nice. We are all nice across Canada; we are not barbarians. Welcome home.

Senator Raine: Thank you; we really appreciate your being here.


Mr. Cyr: Before concluding, I would like to tell you a little anecdote.

I received a letter that came from the Daily Mirror. At the top, it said ``The Rats Mifflin''— Mr. Mifflin was the Minister of Fisheries at the time: ``Ghislain Cyr, the bad, was killing for fun.''

And a person living in England had sent a letter saying I was Hitler's right-hand man. When we know what Canadians did for England at the time.

Mr. Thériault: The title of that article, which we still have at the office, is ``The Good, the Bad and the Cuddly.''


The Chair: It has been an interesting couple of hours, and I thank you for your presence. Certainly, you have added some great information to our committee's findings. We are planning, if all goes well, to visit the Magdalen Islands to hold a public hearing with some other groups that have expressed interest in presenting to us. It is all part and parcel of our process.

We are hoping to have a preliminary report by June 2012, if not a final report, to address the concerns that have been raised. We have heard from several sides already and we look forward to hearing from everyone who has a concern with this — good, bad or indifferent — at the present time. We are open to all, and we look forward to that.

On behalf of the committee, thank you for travelling to Ottawa today to make the presentation to us and to speak about your experiences. It is always good to hear from someone who makes a living on the water.

Senator Patterson: Hear, hear. Thank you very much.

Mr. Longuépée: Thank you. Before you go, I want to explain to you why I brought some food. I have a terrine. It is like a pâté of seal. We have two kinds. This one is like rillettes. I do not know what you call that in English.

Mr. Thériault: Let the interpreter deal with that.

Mr. Longuépée: There is sausage, and we also have a smoked one. The sausage is already cooked. You do not need to cook any of this; it is all cooked. This one is almost like jerky.

Senator Patterson: Beef jerky.

Mr. Longuépée: That is what it is like.

Mr. Cyr: Are there any bears around?

The Chair: We will discover if it is meat or fish.

Mr. Cyr: Thank you, everyone. It was great for me to be able to explain everything. If you have any questions, you can ask Mr. Longuépée or you might find my email somewhere. I will be able, I hope, to give you the best answer.

The Chair: Thank you very much.

Mr. Longuépée: Also, if someone wants to see the hunt of the harp seal or grey seal, call us. It would be a pleasure to arrange everything for you. I will not pay for your trip, but I invite you all. Do not worry; I will arrange everything. You can get a licence to see the hunt. I am not afraid to show you what we are doing; we are professional. However, people think what we show to the people is not good. They prefer to see what the anti-sealers are showing. I invite everyone.

The Chair: We look forward to the opportunity. Thank you very much.

(The committee adjourned.)