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Canadian Political Leader Calls for End of Seal Hunt

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It's time to end federal support for the seal hunt and instead use federal programs to develop sustainable jobs that will bring Newfoundland and Labrador international praise, said Green Party of Canada leader Jim Harris today at a news conference in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

"Killing seals is an off-season activity for fishers, and profits make up only a tiny fraction of their incomes. When Canada banned whale killing, people discovered whale watching tours were more profitable. Likewise, the Green Party believes seal watching excursions would be better for the economy and the ecology of the East coast," said Harris. "Canada markets itself on wilderness and wildlife. This government-subsidized seal hunt is a chapter in our history that needs to come to a close."

Most Canadians don't know that the seal hunt is subsidized by their tax dollars. The Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment reports that the federal government provided more than $20 million in subsidies to the sealing industry between 1995 and 2001. Subsidies are used to upgrade and construct seal processing plants, promote the seal hunt abroad, develop new markets for seal products, and fund research into the development of new seal products.

"Cod stocks were depleted by industrial fishing, which was encouraged by the federal government, and not by harp seal herds. Seals are just a convenient scapegoat for a politically-motivated kill," said Harris. "When Europeans first arrived on the East coat there were an estimated 24 million harp seals living in balance with so many fish that their abundance could impede the passage of ships. Today, less than five million harp seals remain, and the cod are gone."

The Green Party defied conventional political wisdom by voicing its opposition to the seal hunt in St. John's, Newfoundland, not far from where the hunt actually takes place. "Standing against the seal hunt, which since 2003 has meant the killing of nearly one million seals, would be easy to do in downtown Toronto," said Harris. "Instead, we are here in St. John's because we believe that voters have the right to know where the Green Party stands - and to present real, sustainable alternatives to the fishers who participate in the hunt."

Harris challenged each leader of the other federal parties to state their party's position on the hunt and to do so in Newfoundland and Labrador, however popular or unpopular their positions may be.

The Green Party supports wildlife conservation and would redirect seal hunt subsidies to help diversify the economy of Atlantic Canada.

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