Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Governments Offer Help to Develop Seal Products in Backing Atlantic Industry

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Governments Offer Help to Develop Seal Products in Backing Atlantic Industry

Article excerpt

Ottawa offers cash to develop seal products

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ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Ottawa and Newfoundland and Labrador will spend almost $500,000 on a pilot project to offer seal meat at stores in Canada and overseas in the new year.

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea visited a boutique Friday in St. John's, N.L., that sells seal skin coats and boots to announce Ottawa will contribute almost $292,000 to help expand markets for meat.

She dismissed protest from anti-sealing groups that criticized the use of public money to prop up the waning commercial sealing sector.

"It's not a matter of dollars and cents," Shea told a news conference. "This is a matter of principle for us. This is an industry that has been around for a long time.

"We've responded to everything that the anti-sealing organizations have thrown at us. And we know that we have a humane hunt."

The province will contribute the remaining $206,000 for the pilot project. It will involve the bulk processing and marketing of seal meat from a federally approved plant in Fleur de Lys, N.L., said Shannon Lewis of the Atlantic Seal Development Association.

He said the industry group will work with government officials, the private sector and the Fisheries and Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland to develop the new products.

The plan is for a broad campaign starting next year to offer frozen and vacuum-packed seal meat for wholesale and in 'niche market' stores in Canada and overseas.

Lewis said target areas include Vancouver, Toronto and other cities along with northern communities and "Asia-specific" markets that already buy seal meat. The pilot project is expected to create about 20 jobs. If it goes well, it will then be up to private interests to invest in more expansion, Lewis said.

"We feel very confident that this is going to be the future of the industry."

He said all ages of gray, hooded and harp seals can be used to offer a highly nutritious food source.

"We feel it's a product the world needs to recognize and be educated on."

The announcement comes after a World Trade Organization ruling last week upheld Europe's ban on imported seal products, citing public moral concerns for animal welfare. …

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