Surveying all of the tied-up boats at Campbell River’s docks leaves Tom Sewid seething and certain his wild idea is the only way to proceed after a dire fishing season.
“This is our Campbell River fleet,” said Tom Sewid, who is also the founder of the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society.
“And none of them made any money commercial salmon seining south of Cape Caution. So I don’t care if you’re an environmentalist. Step aside. We are going to harvest seals whether you like it or not.”
The Campbell River First Nations man wants seals to be the target of Indigenous fishermen boats this winter, to harvest thousands of seals for their fur.
“It’s what we call winter prime,” said Sewid.
“The hides of the seals are lush, full. We have the right under food, ceremonial to harvest seals and sea lions, we just don’t have the right to sell it. And that’s what we need.”
Seal and sea lions hides, oil and meat could yield up to $1,000 an animal, benefitting coastal First Nations that are struggling with the massive downturn in fishing and he says it would restore a balance that is badly off-kilter in our oceans. An estimated 100,000 harbour seals are now eating up diminishing salmon stocks.
“Hell or high water we’re going to get this done,” said Sewid.
“We’re going to bring balance back to the waters.”
Nanaimo based Fur Canada, which makes products from pillows to coats and carpets, says the market for seal could be huge.
“We think we’re on the cusp of the seal market for China,” said Fur Canada owner Calvin Kania.
“Seal is just starting to take off in China. It’s been a tough sell to the general public and the DFO, Department of Fisheries and Oceans.”
“When it comes to issuing a license for harvesting seals but you know that’s something they have to work out,” he said.
Sewid though said he’s confident that an industry that could employ 4000 First Nations people, can be built, instead of seeing boats sitting idle because of low salmon stocks and worse yet being lost to bankruptcy.