Monday, March 27, 2006

More on the seal hunt

Premier defends seal hunt
'You do your thing and we will continue to do ours'
Mar. 27, 2006. 11:47 AM

BRUSSELS, Belgium - The premier of Nunavut defended Canada's seal hunt Monday, saying it was vital to the survival of aboriginal peoples in the Arctic and provided an economic lifeline for an area desperate for jobs and growth.
Paul Okalik, the Inuit premier of Nunavut, said the majority of the 30,000 people in his region were dependent on seals and other native species like polar bear and fish for their everyday food.
"This is our daily basic diet — we can't grow potatoes. ... It's something we require to continue to survive and its far more nutritious than what is imported from southern Canada," Okalik told reporters.
"So we will continue to eat it, and assist our diets in living healthy. ... You do your thing and we will continue to do ours."
Canada's annual seal hunt off its Atlantic eastern coast got underway last week amid renewed criticism from environmentalists and conservationists that the hunt is cruel.
Okalik said, however, that unlike the East Coast sea hunt, the killing of seals in the North is year-round and is heavily relied on.
"The species that we harvest is the ring seal, and it's primarily adult ring seals," said Okalik. "It's not those fluffy, cute things that you see on TV all the time, that these (conservation) groups use to try and kill the sealskin market."
He said his government hopes to boost the trade in seal pelts, which would just be thrown away if there was no market for them.
"At least with trade it allows us to use the whole seal, as opposed to just discarding the hide, which is a lot more valuable than cow hide," said Okalik.
Okalik was in Brussels to speak with European Union officials to boost the profile of the problems of the Arctic region. He said the Inuit way of life is threatened by global warming
"We are seeing the effects of global climate change more predominantly in our territory," said Okalik. "We're getting shorter winters, longer summers and it's creating a bit of a real challenge. We have a strong hunting and fishing society and each spring and fall we see quite a bit of tragedies where people fall through the ice or lose their equipment. ..."
He said the rise in temperatures is also having major effects on wildlife like the polar bear, which relies on sea ice to hunt its prey.
"We require an international action to tackle it," Okalik said. He called on the EU, Canada and other Arctic countries to focus on practical measures to reduce emissions of carbon dioxide, blamed for global warming.
He said his territorial government was already investing in alternative energy sources, away from fossil fuels, like more environmentally friendly sources like hydroelectricity and wind power generation.

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