Date: August 04, 2007
Author: Joanna Smith
Origin: Globe and Mail

The showdown over Belgium's ban on Canadian seal products pits international trade against animal welfare. Joanna Smith looks at chocolate imports, dietary supplements and kangaroo shoes to put things in perspective


1 Mark Small has been hunting seals off the coast of Newfoundland since the year John Diefenbaker was elected prime minister of Canada. He was 17, one of a family of 11 children, when he first went out on the ice in 1957.

Now, at 67, he owns two fishing vessels outfitted with the latest equipment, including a satellite phone, radar and sonar systems, and all the comforts of home like a shower, refrigerator and cooking range.

He bought his 65-foot vessel for $1-million in 1998, and picked up a 35-footer for $250,000 in 2004.

He took the bigger boat and a crew of eight out on this year's hunt. They caught about 10,000 seals, which at an average of $100 a pelt brought in around $100,000.

Half the money stayed with him and his boat and the other half was split among the crew members, giving them about $6,000 each.

His crew members, who have to obtain licences as assistant sealers from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for $5 each, are not allowed to kill seals. Only professional sealers can do that.

The assistants are there to clean the pelts and learn the industry regulations under the captain's direction. After a two-year apprenticeship, they may obtain full licences to become professional sealers.


2 Souring trade relations with Belgium might have many sweet-toothed Canadians worried about how long creamy milk chocolate will be allowed through our ports.

As popular as it is, however, chocolate is well down the list of commodities that Belgium sends us. The latest numbers from Industry Canada put chocolate and other cocoa products in 16th place - just above combine harvesters.

Last year, Belgium exported $1.96-billion worth of goods to Canada, led by fuels and mineral oils, motor vehicles, pharmaceutical products, diamonds and - wait for it - beer.

In the other direction, Belgium is Canada's 10th most important export market. We exported $2.39-billion in goods to Belgium in 2006, including rough diamonds, nickel, linseed oil, zinc and durum wheat.


3 Seal oil is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to have health benefits ranging from lowering cholesterol to reducing the risk of Alzheimer's disease.

Nu Tan Furs Inc. operates a manufacturing plant in Catalina, Nfld., that processes seal oil, which is later sold as a dietary supplement in bottles of 120 capsules at an average of $10 a bottle.
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