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Narwhals Use Their Tusks to Club and Stun Prey, Scientists Discover

Ivan Semeniuk - SCIENCE REPORTER, The Globe and Mail, Published Friday, May 12, 2017

On the video, it is easy to miss – a sideways motion of the head by a swimming narwhal as it chases down a school of fish. But with that split-second flick, and several more like it, scientists working with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada have documented something entirely new to science.

Based on a frame-by-frame dissection of the video, it appears that narwhals are using their iconic tusks to club and stun fish, which they then consume. The surprising behaviour is part of a growing picture of the feeding patterns of one of the most enigmatic of all whale species that could help inform efforts to conserve its habitat in the high Arctic.

"It's fascinating … it really shows how agile they are with their tusks," said Marianne Marcoux, a senior scientist with DFO based in Winnipeg whose team gathered the video during a field expedition last August in Tremblay Sound, a narrow fjord on the north coast of Baffin Island.

Dr. Marcoux, a narwhal expert who was not on the expedition, but who has carefully studied the video, said the whales may be employing the tusk-clobbering method in different ways depending on the number and species of fish they are pursuing. A scientific paper describing the find is being prepared for publication.

A narwhal's tusk is actually a modified canine tooth that protrudes up to three metres from the left upper jaw and grows in a spiral pattern. Over the years, many theories have been proposed for why narwhals evolved such a distinct anatomical feature, including for digging on the sea floor or for combat with rivals.

Because it is typically only males of the species who sport the tusk, scientists have long regarded its primary purpose to be an advertisement to females, similar to a peacock's tail. A 2014 study demonstrated the tusk may also serve as a sensory organ because it is not sealed in enamel like most mammal teeth and has a nerve fibre running through it that could be sensitive to chemical stimuli in seawater.

The new find adds another dimension to the tusk – one that has not been recorded before because of the technical challenge of observing narwhals up close while they are going about their business in the ocean.

[ View the Video, and Read More ]

Inuk Teen's Sealskin Parka Becomes an Affirmation

NEWS: Around the Arctic February 03, 2017

"This overwhelming sense of confidence and pride. It was surreal, I can't compare it to anything,"

When Braden Johnston, 17, first put on the new sealskin parka his mother made for him, a powerful change came over him.

"It was kinda like a personal coming of age for me, finally getting a sense of affirmation with Inuit, the Inuk I have in me. This overwhelming sense of confidence and pride. It was surreal. I can't compare it to anything," said the young man, who is in his last year at Yellowknife's Sir John Franklin High School.

With the blessing of his mother, Hovak Johnston, Braden posted a picture of himself wearing the parka with the hashtag, #FuckPeta. (Peta, which stands for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, is an American animal rights group.)

The negative backlash from that post was expected, Braden said Feb. 2, as were the hateful comments from so-called animal rights activists.

But before long his picture was shared more than 100 times on Facebook, including by his mother's childhood friend, the award-winning Inuk musician Tanya Tagaq.

Tagaq, who was preparing to give a concert in Nuuk, Greenland, Feb. 3, confirmed to Nunatsiaq News that Facebook deleted her post and then banned her from the social media site.

Later Feb. 3, Tagaq posted on Twitter that Facebook had emailed an apology, explaining that "one of their members "accidentally" removed the post and banned me."

What really surprised Braden, though, was the love and support—not the hate—that his simple post inspired.

"I couldn't have put a bigger target on my back with that hashtag. But what surprised me was the vast amount of love and support and coming-togetherness with the Inuit community. And not just Inuit, but different ethnicities across Canada, even other countries, sharing the photo and giving support… It was unreal and beautiful."

The message Braden said he hoped to convey with his picture went far beyond animal rights groups like PETA.

"For me it wasn't just 'Fuck Peta', but a 'fuck you' to every government or person or group who have told Inuit what they can and cannot do and wear, what's acceptable and what isn't. It was me being fed up at not being able to be proud of my culture and people," he said.

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Annual Inuvik Reindeer Crossing to Take Place Today

By Garrett Hinchey, CBC News Posted: Apr 03, 2016

Residents of the Northwest Territories' Mackenzie Delta are in for quite the show Sunday afternoon, as 3,000 reindeer will make the annual crossing of the ice road between the communities of Inuvik and Tuktoyaktuk.

The reindeer are making their way to their calving grounds on Richards Island, near Tuktoyaktuk. It's a journey that first began in 1935, when Saami herders and Alaska Natives brought a herd of reindeer, originally from Russia, to the Mackenzie Delta.

The Canadian government made the decision to move reindeer into the area to address a shortage of caribou, traditionally used as a source of food and fur by locals

Today, herders move the reindeer to Richards Island from wintering grounds near Jimmy Lake, N.W.T. The event has drawn crowds from communities across the region as people come to witness the spectacular sight.

"The crossing itself is usually about a half an hour, 45 minutes," says Kylik Kisoun-Taylor, the owner and operator of Inuvik's Tundra North Tours.

"They kind of slow it down so they can get a good look, but the reindeer can walk at a pretty good clip. But they usually slow it down so people can get some good pictures and stuff."

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Inuvik Man Says His Traps Were Bulldozed by Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link Construction

By David Thurton, CBC News Posted: Apr 01, 2016

An Inuvik, N.W.T., trapper says he can't remain silent as the construction of the Mackenzie Valley Fibre Link destroys his livelihood.

James Firth, a former chief of the Inuvik Native Band and a past Gwich'in Tribal Council vice-president, said the project's tractors bulldozed his traps and are scaring away the moose, caribou and other animals he hunts and traps.

"The season hasn't been productive this year," Firth said.

"From all the noise, all the smell. All the animals have been chased away from getting our traps run over."

A couple months after construction of the $82 million fibre optic telecommunications line between Fort Simpson and Inuvik started in January 2015, Firth first noticed traps had been bulldozed. Firth said the fibre line went directly through his trap line between North Caribou Lake and Crossing Lake, which is about 170 kilometres south of Inuvik.

Firth met with government officials to complain, and he said the officials told him to mark his traps with an orange ribbons. However, even when he and his partner did this, Firth said their traps were still mowed over.

"I let them know that I am out there. They just went ahead and did it any way. They bulldozed my traps," Firth said.

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Ex-Mountie Who Smuggled Narwhal Tusks Extradited to U.S.

By Bobbi-Jean MacKinnon, CBC News | Posted: Mar 17, 2016

A retired RCMP officer, already convicted and sentenced in New Brunswick for smuggling narwhal tusks across the border, has been extradited to the United States to face related money-laundering charges in Maine.

Gregory Logan, 58, of Woodmans Point, N.B., was ordered Wednesday by a U.S. judge to be held in custody pending his trial, scheduled for May 3 in U.S. District Court in Bangor.

Prosecutors allege Logan smuggled at least 250 narwhal tusks worth more than $2 million US into the United States by hiding them in false compartments in his vehicle, starting in 2000, when he was still a Mountie.

They allege Logan sold the ivory tusks to collectors, then laundered the proceeds by having the money transferred out of the United States in order to further the smuggling conspiracy.

If convicted, Logan could face up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $500,000 US.

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In Depth | Nunavut Inuit back caribou calving grounds protection

By Sima Sahar Zerehi, CBC News | Posted: Mar 17, 2016

Inuit groups are relieved that the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board has re-affirmed its commitment to full protection of caribou calving grounds in light of a recent, and controversial, policy change by the Government of Nunavut.

"I stand firmly with the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board wanting full protection of our caribou calving grounds," said David Toolooktook from the Baker Lake Hunters and Trappers Association.​

Last week, the Nunavut government announced it would no longer push for a ban on development in the caribou calving grounds in the territory's forthcoming — and first-ever — territory-wide land use plan. Instead, it now wants to see proposed developments reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

"If the Nunavut government wants to give up the full protection of caribou calving grounds, it's time to change the Nunavut government and elect new MLAs," said Toolooktook. "Then maybe we'll get the government that supports its people."

Limiting Development

The NWMB has called for full protection of caribou calving and post calving grounds, including a ban on mineral, oil and gas exploration and development, and the construction of transportation infrastructure.

"We're talking about limiting development that happens in those very important sensitive areas," said NWMB's acting chair, Daniel Shewchuk.

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Carcasses Provide Clue to Mackenzie Delta Muskrat Population Decline

CBC News | Posted: Mar 17, 2016

A research team is trying to determine why muskrat populations are on the decline in the Mackenzie Delta.

Jeremy Brammer, a PhD student at McGill University, is one of the researchers conducting the four-year study. He's collecting carcasses of muskrats and the animals that eat the rodent.

"The goal of that component of the program is to address how much are red fox, how much are mink and otters eating muskrats?" Brammer says.

It's possible that warmer winters are attracting the predators to the Arctic.

"Otters are becoming more numerous and being observed more frequently further North. This is what's being reported to me by trappers," he says.

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Photo Gallery: In Canada's Remote North, a Marten Means Money and a Moose Means Food for Trappers

National Post Staff | March 11, 2016

Public opinion on the fur trade may have changed, but in Canada's north hunting and trapping remain deeply entwined with history, culture – and survival. Over one long winter, National Post photographer Tyler Anderson travelled to remote regions from Quebec to B.C. to explore this way of life, where a marten means money, a moose means food.

With three coyotes strung around his neck, trapper Gordy Klassen adjusts his cowboy hat to shade his eyes from the sun. Klassen is on his way back from checking snares along the edge of a farmers field in DeBolt, Alberta.

With three coyotes strung around his neck, trapper Gordy Klassen adjusts his cowboy hat to shade his eyes from the sun. Klassen is on his way back from checking snares along the edge of a farmers field in DeBolt, Alberta.

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Chinese are Main Buyers of Polar Bear Fur, but Trade Not a Threat to Species

BOB WEBER | The Canadian Press | Published Monday, Dec. 07, 2015

A new analysis shows Chinese consumers with an appetite for luxury have taken over from American sport hunters as the main buyers of Canadian polar bear fur.

But the study to be presented this week at a conference in Vancouver concludes there's no reason to believe that the sale of bear hides or other parts threatens the animal's future.

"This increasing Chinese market may have stimulated some increased hunting, but really what it did is stimulate increased exporting," said Ernest Cooper, a consultant who is to present his findings Wednesday at ArcticNet, which brings together Arctic researchers from all fields.

Canada is the only country in the world that allows commercial trade in polar bears.

Mr. Cooper, whose work has been sent to all governments that manage polar bears, found the number of hides exported by Canada has been gradually rising to 400 in 2013 from 266 in 2005 – although 2014 saw a sharp drop.

The main market for the hides used to be American sport hunters returning home with their trophies. But after the United States made importing the hides illegal, the trade shifted to China.

The Asian country bought 12 hides in 2005, but accounted for 42 per cent of all hides exported from Canada between 2010 and 2014.

"The market for polar bear hides in China reflects an increasing market for all furs going to China," said Mr. Cooper.

Chinese buyers have been paying between $5,000 and $6,000 for an average hide. Top-quality examples have fetched as much as $20,000 at auction.

Still, Mr. Cooper said his study offers no evidence that exporting hides leads to more hunting or threatens the population of the bears.

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Kayaking the Arctic: One Man Encounters 39 Polar Bears

By The Early Edition, CBC News Posted: Feb 17, 2016

Jaime Sharp will never forget the time he woke up in the middle of the Arctic, to find a polar bear sitting on his legs.

The New Zealand adventurer was three days into his attempt to kayak around a group of Arctic islands, a trip that would ultimately take 71 days and yield 39 polar bear encounters.

This was encounter number one.

"Up until that point, we had been sleeping behind a trip wire fence and relying on that to alarm us if any polar bears came in," said Sharp.

He woke up the next morning to one of his friends, Tara Mulvaney, talking in her sleep.

"I thought well, she must be having a bad dream," he said.

"Then I rolled over on my back and prepared to go back to sleep when suddenly this immense weight just lands on my legs."

'Get the gun!'

At first, Sharp thought it was a reindeer that had stumbled into their campsite, but a reindeer probably wouldn't have been able to avoid the trip wire, he said. The only other thing it could be was a polar bear.

"My first thought was to yell at this polar bear and try to intimidate it away," he said. But he knew he had to be prepared.

The bear had apparently made itself feel at home by sitting on the tent, and Sharp was worried what would happen if he protested.

[ Read More ]

Arviat Polar Bear Patrols Reduce Bear Deaths, says WWF-Canada

Sima Sahar Zerehi, CBC News Posted: Feb 24, 2016

The community of Arviat and WWF-Canada say their joint polar bear patrol program is a success, with new data showing a decrease in the number of bears that need to be killed due to encounters with humans over the last five years.

Since 2010, patrol teams have monitored the perimeter of the community in the peak season from September to December to help drive bears away.

"Before we joined up with the hamlet, there was on average about eight bears that had to be dispatched every year," said Paul Crowley, director of WWF-Canada's Arctic Program.

"Since then it's been down to about one bear per year. Some years none and other years there's been a couple."

This past season three bears were killed — two by the patrol and one by a local hunter who encountered the animal at his hunting cabin.

In total, there were 190 polar bear encounters in Arviat this past season.

Leo Ikakhik has been a polar bear patroller since the program started. During that time he's had a few close encounters, including one with "a big male, really skinny one."

"The bear was like a freight train," recounts Ikakhik. "No matter how I tried to cut him off, the bear just kept going straight."

Ikakhik had his rifle ready and was sure he would have no choice but to shoot, but the animal changed direction at the last second.

To help keep the animals away, the patrol teams use ATVs, snowmobiles, as well as cracker shells, rubber bullets bean bags, flares and live rounds to keep the community safe. Live traps are baited with seal meat so the animals can be moved away from residential areas.

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Conservation Group Hails Success of its Nunavut Bear Patrol

Natonal Post | Tristin Hopper | February 24, 2016

By warding off polar bears with pyrotechnics instead of bullets, the World Wildlife Fund has claimed victory in improving relations between the people of Arviat, NU and their polar bear neighbours.

In a press release the conservation group said "we have successfully reduced the number of polar bears destroyed from an average of eight per year … to an average of one per year."

The WWF-funded "polar bear patrol" was first inaugurated in 2010. The program involved deputizing locals from the community of 2,300 to cruise around on ATVs and ward off approaching bears with flares, cracker shells, rubber bullets and the occasional live round fired into the air.

The program also established a bear hotline where locals can phone in sightings, and bear patrollers are occasionally dispatched to set live traps in order to catch "very persistent bears."

Arviat is located directly in the path of polar bears' migration route north along the coast of Hudson Bay. As a result, its streets are frequented by bears looking for a quick meal by raiding local meat caches.

Due to the rapid retreat of sea ice in recent years, the problem has only gotten worse as bears are forced inland. At the peak of bear migration in November, the community can see as many as seven bear alerts per day.

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Dawson City Resident Shoots Grizzly Bear

Whitehorse Star | 29 October 2015

A Dawson City resident had to shoot a grizzly bear early Monday morning after it broke into a shed twice and behaved aggressively.

“It’s very unusual in Dawson City, right in the town limits, we almost never have bears,” Kirby Meister, a local conservation officer, said in an interview Wednesday.

The bear first arrived in Dawson last Friday, Meister said, and residents recognizing the tracks in the snow phoned him immediately.

As all conservation officers were out of town last weekend, a deputy officer set up traps and warning signs – with little to no effect.

The bear snatched the bait from three traps without triggering the mechanism – which is not unusual for larger bears, Meister said.

Last Saturday night, the bear broke into a shed at a residence in the Dome subdivision, finding scraps left over from a butchered moose.

[ Read More ]

Arviat Takes Halloween Indoors for 2nd Year due to Polar Bears

CBC News | 30 October 2015

Outdoor trick or treating discouraged as polar bears common in area during fall

Arviat, Nunavut, will be holding its Halloween celebrations indoors for the second year in a row due to safety concerns about children going door to door at night during polar bear season.

Arviat is on Hudson Bay about 250 kilometres north of Churchill, Man., and is visited by polar bears in the late fall.

"The last couple of years we've seen a dramatic increase in the number of bears in our community," says Steve England, the hamlet's senior administrative officer.

"Last year was the first year we hosted Halloween indoors. It went over successfully, so this year the council decided to do the same thing again."

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Four Things to Know from Nunavut's Legislature Thursday

CBC News | Jane Sponagle | 30 October 2015

Seal skins, caribou management, a Nunavut university and bills were on the agenda

Nunavut MLAs continued their busy fall sitting with an action-packed agenda on Thursday. It covered everything from wildlife to a Nunavut university to allowing alcohol sales on election day.

1. Seal skin tracking goes high tech?

The MLA for Iqaluit-Tasiluk wants to know how the Nunavut government plans to certify seal skins, now that furs harvested under the rules of the European Union exemption can be certified for sale in Europe.

"How are our seal skins going to be distinguished from other seal skins that are harvested around the world under different conditions, from traditional hunting methods?" asked George Hickes.

"Is there going to be a serial number? Is there going to be some type of a stamp? That's what I'm looking for."

The government will use a barcode system to keep track of the seal skins, said Environment Minister Johnny Mike in Inuktitut.

He said his department has been working closely with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

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Orphaned Polar Bear Cubs from Churchill Arrive at Assiniboine Park Zoo

CBC News | 28 October 2015

Bears' mother accidentally killed by cracker shell meant to scare her and cubs away

Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park Zoo has two new polar bear cubs that have just arrived from northern Manitoba.

The orphaned 11-month-old male cubs were relocated late Tuesday from Churchill to Winnipeg, where they're now staying at the zoo's Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre.

"Last night they came off the plane, walked into their holding facility and started eating right away," Dr. Chris Enright, the zoo's head of veterinary services, said on Wednesday.

"It's one of those mixed things," he said. "I think all of us would prefer these cubs be roaming the tundra with mom. Unfortunately, mom is no longer alive and these cubs would not survive without her."

The pair's mother was accidentally killed by a civilian trying to scare her and the cubs away from a building with a cracker shell.

Cracker shells, which are shot from firearms, make a lot of noise and are only intended to scare animals.
Polar bear cub

The cubs will spend a standard 30-day quarantine period at the zoo's Leatherdale International Polar Bear Conservation Centre. (Assiniboine Park Zoo)

The shell ended up striking the mother, causing significant blood loss, according to Manitoba Conservation, which decided the cubs should be moved to Winnipeg.

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Fur: Has a New Generation Shrugged Off the Old Stigma?

The Telegraph | By Hannah Betts | 27 Mar 2015

The fur industry, a phrase that used to have to be uttered sotto voce, has released figures to demonstrate that, far from being an object of collective scorn, fur is now positively a la mode. Not that this should come as much of a surprise.

A celebrity is hardly a celebrity these days without showing some (borrowed) skin, be it Rihanna, Rita Ora or the Middleton sisters, Beyoncé, Jennifer Lopez, or perennial pelt wearer Kate Moss.

Kim Kardashian, her husband Kanye West, and even their toddler wallow in the stuff. One-year-old North West occupied the front row in what was believed to be a $3,500 (£2,300) crystal fox fur coat during February's New York fashion week.

On last year's British catwalks, more than 60% of shows featured fur, while in America the figure was over 70%. Where once fur was confined to a few picketed outlets, today it can be found from haute couture to the high street. Small wonder demand has been pushed into overdrive.

The new statistics come from the International Fur Federation (IFF), the industry's global trade body, and are the first to show a breakdown of different pelts.

The figures are somewhat mind-boggling, revealing, for example, that, in 2013 to 2014, 87.2 million mink pelts were produced around the globe, worth a total of £2.2bn. Research by the IFF last year valued the global trade at more than £26bn. Fur, it would appear, is no longer a controversial anachronism, but a flourishing contemporary enterprise.

"This is almost the golden age in fur," Charles Ross of Saga Furs has remarked.

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Considering the positive side of Canada's fur trade

Castlegar News | Community | Mar 11, 2015

Animal rights activists have long raised the issue of the ethics of animal trapping and recently the debate has heated up. This time it is centered on the RCMP's traditional fur hats.

An animal rights group, the Association for the Protection of Fur-bearing Animals, have been determined to persuade the RCMP to retire their traditional hats since the 1970s. The fur hats are made of muskrat pelts. Muskrats are trapped for these pelts and that is where the association's problem with the hats comes in.

In September 2014, the RCMP gave in to the association's request and decided to replace their hats with a non-fur alternative. However, only two days after the RCMP made the announcement, the Conservative government overturned their decision with a small compromise; that there would be a significant reduction in the production of the traditional fur hats.

This decision to ditch the hats, although quickly changed, left many people close to the fur trade feeling outraged and abandoned. The fur trade in Canada has been a sustainable and renewable resource, part of our economy and ecology since 1534. People living in rural communities and many First Nations rely on trapping as an important source of income and food.

Trappers and hunters receive training and are regulated through registered trap-lines, harvest quotas, hunting seasons, and other means to maintain healthy fur-bearing populations. With our long trapping history, does it make sense to retire the hats so easily?

On the other hand, the animal rights groups also serve a vital role; to shine the light on inhumane treatment of animals. For example, animals suffering needlessly when caught in neck snares and slowly choking to death or on fur farms where animals are raised in cramped and inhumane conditions. In these situations, changes need to happen.

The Fur Institute of Canada was founded in 1983, mandated by federal, provincial, and territorial wildlife ministers to advocate for the smart and sustainable use of our country's fur resources. Many would argue though that the fur industry, at least in Canada, is highly regulated and addresses many of the concerns of animal rights groups.

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Taxidermist Also has a Love of the Outdoors

This is Joe's story about working for us here at FurCanada ...

Nanaimo Daily News - Julie Chadwick / Daily News - August 18, 2014

Two hand-washes later and I can still smell blood on my skin.

Less than an hour earlier, taxidermist Joe Vanderloo had handed me a meaty bear skull from the freezer, surprisingly weighty.

An eyeball stared blankly from one of the sockets.

It's a typical feature of a day in the office at Fur Canada, where the artistic medium - rather than clay or marble - is animals.

The art of taxidermy, by definition (derived from the Greek taxis - to move or arrange, and dermis - skin) involves primarily the hides, which are carefully worked to fit over a sculpted form and then mounted for display.

An industry in flux - it's not clear how changes in hunting regulations or shifting tastes in the popularity of fur have affected demand - Vanderloo is the face of a younger generation entering taxidermy as a viable career option, buoyed in part by both museum work and a burgeoning market in China.

He also embodies an inherently creative aspect of the industry. Six months ago, he was running a business in Victoria making metal sculptures for sale to tourists, but soon moved to Nanaimo to learn the trade after spotting an ad seeking an apprentice with artistic abilities.

"You really have to make the animal look right," he said, holding the tanned pelt of an Arctic fox. "You have to have an eye for symmetry and what looks natural. A lot of times we'll get in these forms, and you have to alter them to fit the skin.

"Of course foxes are all different sizes, and these ones are kind of small for the forms we have, so you have to whittle them down to make it fit the hide."

An additional lure of the job for Vanderloo and many other taxidermists, is a love for the outdoors. "I really love animals and nature. Any time I saw a mount when I was a kid I was just really fascinated by them," he said.

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Alex Van Bibber, an Incredible Yukon Trapper, Just May Have Been the Toughest Man in Canada

National Post | Tristin Hopper | November 28, 2014

Alex Van Bibber was probably the toughest man in Canada.

He was born under a spruce tree and he went to school at age 13 by piloting a log raft down the Yukon River.

Assembly of First Nations/Facebook
Alex Van Bibber at his 98th birthday party.

At the age of 82, he dislocated his arm after rolling his ATV, and hiked three miles to catch a ride to the hospital. At 93, he walked five miles through thick snow after his snowmobile broke down.

One time, already well into old age, the veteran trapper was demonstrating a powerful new steel trap to a classroom of his peers when it suddenly slammed shut on his wrist, shattering his watch and sending pain shooting up his arm.

Without blinking or missing a beat, the trapper turned back to the stunned class and said “Now what are you going to do? You’re caught in your own trap. You have to get out because you can’t go home because your wife will laugh at you.”

“He comes from a generation the likes of which we’re likely never going to see again,” said friend Harvey Jessup.

On Wednesday, Mr. Van Bibber died surrounded by family at a Calgary hospital. He was 98, and only weeks before — despite suffering from congestive heart failure and the bruises of a nasty fall — the member of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations had still been running his trap line.

Alex Van Bibber was a symbol of ‘what the North once
was and what we hope it will continue to be’

[ Read More ]

[ LISTEN to Harvey Jessup, a friend of Van Bibber's for more than 40 years. ]

[ CBC.ca Remembers Van Bibber ]

Fur Institute of Canada (FIC) Applauds Recent Government’s Support of Canadian Trappers

Ottawa (October 1, 2014) - The Fur Institute of Canada (FIC) applauds the recent announcement by the Government of Canada to overturn a potential move by the RCMP to change its uniform policy related to the use of the iconic Muskrat Fur Hat. The tens-of-thousands of Canadians who rely on the fur trade appreciate the Government’s continued strong support for the principle of conservation through sustainable use. 

Historically, the fur trade played a central role in the development of Canada, and, like the RCMP, has a significant and iconic position in Canadian heritage, culture and tradition. The FIC is pleased that the Government’s support for this heritage as well as the internationally recognized principles of conservation will not be compromised by radical animal rights activists whose efforts and campaigns of misinformation only serve to hurt the livelihoods of Canadians in rural and remote communities.

Canadian trappers not only contribute to the economy, they also play an integral role in managing wildlife populations under the supervision of the government for the benefit of all Canadians. They are hard-working, dedicated conservationists who have a profound respect for animals and a love for nature. Today’s fur trade is highly regulated and utilizes traps, including those for muskrat, that are in full compliance with the Agreement on International Humane Trapping Standards. 

Research has clearly shown that no other material matches the quality of muskrat fur for warmth, water repellency, comfort and appearance.  

For more information contact:

Tyler Gogo
Fur Institute of Canada
tyler.gogo@fur.ca
Tel: 613-231-7099

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Eating Seal Meat Is a Vital Part of Life in My Community

Written by Tanya Tagaq | Munchies – Food by VICE | October 21, 2014

I don't understand the logic of protesting the hunting of a relatively small number of animals that are completely sustainable. It doesn't make any sense to me why people don't get up from their computers and protest slaughterhouses, as opposed to stopping indigenous, poverty-ridden people from being able to reap their own natural resources. It just takes a couple of celebrities like Paul McCartney to come along and talk about how cute these seals are, and everyone loses their mind completely.

When you aren't from a city and you aren't born and raised around skyscrapers and only picking food up from the grocery store, you understand the process of a living thing becoming your food. But a lot of people who eat meat are disgusted at the thought of a dead animal—they don't want to touch it. That's why I posted the sealfie in the first place. I wanted to have my baby there to demonstrate that this isn't gross; we're all flesh and we should respect the being that gave its life for us to eat. I definitely know that when you're buying chicken breast at the store, you're not like, Thank you, chicken, for dying.

Anyone who tries to vilify me and my position on seals is not sitting there in the spring in Nunavut when there are so many seals that it's like someone took a pepper shaker and sprinkled it on the ice. It's ridiculous that other cultures are welcome to survive off our natural resources, but we're not. A lot of people support what I'm saying because it's logical. And you know what's illogical? Thousands of people who have never seen a seal, who are sitting behind a computer and getting out their personal angst by trolling.

Seals make these animal rights groups lots of money, because a rich woman in Brooklyn isn't going to send you a $500 donation if you send her a postcard with a chicken on it. You need the cute seal's face so that it generates empathy. It's only a couple groups of people making money off of seals, and it's not the people who live with them.

When I said "fuck PETA" at the Polaris Prize awards, I had a two-minute acceptance speech to get across everything I wanted to say. But PETA had hours and hours to come up with a statement, and all they say was for me to "read more"! There's no logic in there; there's no respect. They vilified Inuit people for generations, and finally one of them very publicly stands up to them, and that showed their racism. Admittedly, what I said wasn't the most mature thing. But if you got to know me, you'd see that I curse a lot, but I've got a warm heart.

Trying to talk to people who are completely fanatical about a situation is really difficult. I'm not going to get in a conversation with anybody who can't have an actual conversation. When I post something online about feminism or indigenous rights, there's always that person that's like, Oh, you're whining, get over it. I try to see as many sides of a topic as I can, and I'm open to changing my mind as long as you can provide me with adequate information that'll allow my opinion to be swayed. But if anyone's stupid enough to argue against basic human rights, I don't want to talk to them.

What a lot of people don't understand is that kids in indigenous communities are hungry, and it's painful to see that. Knowing that, how do you empower people? In the 1970s, when Greenpeace started protesting the seal hunt, suicide rates jumped in Nunavut. To empower people, they have to feel good about themselves and be able to provide for their own families. If you're making money by doing something you love and always did and are very good at, and are simultaneously feeding your children, that will help alleviate some of the socioeconomic problems, which will dovetail into having a higher quality of life, and then decrease the number of missing and murdered indigenous women in our community. It's all connected.

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Narwhal Tagging 2014: Polar Bear Watch

By Clint Wright | VANCOUVER SUN | August 22, 2014 • Section: Arctic Connection, COMMUNITY

People who travel in the Arctic very quickly get used to the idea of getting stuck in small towns. It happened to me last year and this year is no different.

We started our journey north to satellite tag and collect samples from narwhals by taking a flight from Ottawa to Iqaluit. Then it was on to Arctic Bay, Resolute and finally Grise Fiord. Our schedule, though, was weather dependent, and we arrived later than anticipated.

Six small aluminum boats were waiting at Grise Fiord for our team of scientists, animal care specialists and others with related expertise. They took our team 30 kilometres to a camp in a fjord adjacent the town. We haven't seen any narwhals yet, though I don't expect it to be like it was in Tremblay Sound in 2012 with narwhals in the hundreds swimming up the channel. I think that today's storm might move the narwhals into the fjord for shelter, but a cruise ship, which we saw at the mouth of the fjord, may actually divert the whales.

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Narwhal Tagging 2014: Elusive Whales

By Clint Wright | VANCOUVER SUN | August 27, 2014 • Section: Arctic Connection, COMMUNITY

We are well into our narwhal research trip and… no sight of narwhals. Should they have ventured by our camp outside of Grise Fiord, Nunavut I would have seen them early this morning because there was no wind and the water was like glass. Alas, there weren't any narwhals, but I did see jellies rippling in the water during my 3 am polar bear shift (didn't see any polar bears either).

We (our team of scientists, animal husbandry experts and Fisheries and Oceans Canada staff) just need to be patient. We didn't see them until well into our trip last year, and this year may very well be the same. There's already talk about doing things a little differently in 2015 and perhaps venturing further north where more narwhals have been sighted.

In the absence of narwhals, I've enjoyed seeing other Arctic animals, like seabirds, ringed seals and even a muskox. I watched a ringed seal investigate the floats attached to the tops of our nets, and I had a good chance to see a lone female muskox as she made her way through our camp. Trying to fix the broken furnace in the communal tent has been keeping us busy too.

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Narwhal Tagging 2014: Where Have They Gone?

By Clint Wright | VANCOUVER SUN | September 4, 2014 • Section: Arctic Connection, COMMUNITY

We've seen a lot of muskox near our camp outside of Grise Fiord, Nunavut but zero narwhals. While it's easy to feel disappointed, I'm satisfied that we had a safe research trip. I, along with a team of scientists, animal husbandry experts and Fisheries and Oceans Canada staff, came to satellite-tag and collect samples from narwhals with the hope of learning where they travel during different times of the year.

As mentioned in my last blog post, we saw our first muskox when it made its way through our camp. It was alone, which is quite unusual because muskox generally gather in groups of five or more. Since then, there have been 14 more sightings of these formidable animals on the shore opposite our camp. They can be quite aggressive so the locals were concerned for us, but we always kept at a safe distance.

At the same time of trying to satellite-tag narwhals, Nigel Hussey of the University of Windsor has been tagging Greenland sharks and looking into whether these sharks inhabit the same waters as narwhals. In theory, Greenland sharks follow narwhals to feed on the afterbirth and dead calves, so the fact that we've only caught three Greenland sharks may be significant – it may be a sign that narwhals are not around either.

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Narwhal's Trademark Tusk Acts Like a Sensor, Scientist Says

The Arctic whale's tusk is actually a tooth that can grow more than nine feet long; it has baffled people for centuries.

By Jane J. Lee | National Geographic | Published March 18, 2014

The arctic whale known as the narwhal is famous for the spiral tusk protruding from its head, but scientists have long battled over the horn's purpose.

On Tuesday, scientists published a study that advances a bold theory about how the whale uses its tusk. They say the horn, which is actually a tooth, is a sensory organ.

The scientists speculate that the tusk, usually found only the males, can pick up differences in the whale's environment, like the salt content of seawater, helping the marine mammals to navigate their frigid homes or perhaps find food.

But the theory is highly controversial; many marine mammal experts reject the idea that the tusk plays a central role in a narwal's ability to sense its environment, insisting that the tooth is most likely a lure to attract mates. (Related: The Mystery of the Sea Unicorn)

"There's just zero evidence" for the possibility that a male narwhal's tusk plays a large role in whether the animal can sense things like changes in salinity or where to find food, says Kristin Laidre, a marine mammal biologist at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Martin Nweeia of the Harvard School of Dental Medicine, lead author of the new study published in The Anatomical Record, agrees that the tusk is like the brilliant feathers of a peacock—used to attract females in the mood to mate. But he says that doesn't necessarily preclude other uses.

"It's very typical for a sensory organ to have multiple functions," he says.

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Animal Rights Groups Twisted Facts, Prof Says

By Jonathan Charlton, The StarPhoenix - January 21, 2014

Environmentally conscious people should treat animal rights campaigns with the same skepticism they bring to any other organization or government.

That’s the view of University of Saskatchewan professor Douglas Clark of the School of Environment and Sustainability, who, with University of Exeter geographer Martina Tyrrell, wrote a study on the campaign to ban all trade of polar bear products last year.

“Part of the reason polar bears have become such an uncontrollable symbol is because people have used information selectively, and there’s enough information and enough (uncertainty) about this — and most other environmental issues — that you can use good science to back up nearly any claim,” Clark said.

At the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora in Bangkok last April, the U.S. and Russia proposed moving polar bears to a classification that would ban almost all trade of goods made from polar bears.

But Inuit subsistence hunting and the limited sport hunting in the north isn’t a threat to the polar bear population, Clark said.

“Economics doesn’t really drive the polar bear hunt. It’s something Inuit have always done and will probably always do,” he said. “And the ability to derive some economic benefit out of the subsistence hunt is important to Inuit people in their communities.

“And we were seeing this media campaign just was not portraying the issue in a way we felt was accurate, or showed the complete picture.”

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Polar Bear Hunting Campaigns 'Mislead Public and Divert Focus from Climate Change Threat'

By Western Daily Press | Posted: January 21, 2014

Campaigns to stop the hunting of polar bears may be doing the animals more harm than good by oversimplifying the debate and ignoring the threat posed by climate change.

Animal welfare groups opposed to hunting by Inuit groups are also said to have manipulated numerical data and misled the public through narratives of impending extinction.

A joint study by the universities of Exeter and Saskatchewan, Canada, found that campaigns by animal welfare organisations, often backed by celebrities, targeted hunting while virtually ignoring the loss of sea ice habitat due to human-induced climate change.

University of Exeter geographer Dr Martina Tyrrell and Dr Doug Clark from the University of Saskatchewan’s School of Environment and Sustainability, examined the fallout from a media campaign in the run-up to the March 2013 proposal to severely limit or prohibit trade in polar bears under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Dr Tyrrell said: “By obscuring the root causes of the threats to polar bears, the likelihood of truly rational, feasible, and justifiable conservation actions for a warming Arctic may be receding just as fast as the region’s sea ice.”

Their article examines the data used by animal welfare organisations in an attempt to sway public opinion regarding polar bear hunting.

Dr Tyrrell continued: “Parties on all sides are likely to have the best interests of polar bear populations at heart, but unfortunately only paying attention to one side of the issue places their future in greater jeopardy. An oversimplified emphasis on polar bear hunting diverts attention away from climate change-induced sea ice loss and from the realities of humans and animals sharing that habitat.”

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GNWT Wants China to Buy NWT Fur Products

Territory, Alberta both launch trade missions to Asia

Northern Journal - Jan 20, 2014 - By Maria Church

The NWT’s premier and industry minister are hoping that a recent trade mission to China will encourage the massive consumer power of the largest population in the world to look to Canada’s North for quality fur.

Wild fur was the topic of choice during the trade mission to China where GNWT delegates attended the Beijing Fur Fair and International Fur Trade Federation Forum, touting the Territories’ sustainable fur harvesting practices.

The government promoted the territory’s wild fur harvesting and sustainable trapping practices to their Chinese counterparts, calling NWT fur some of the most highly sought after fur in the world.

“At every fur auction, our wild fur is in very high demand, particularly from Chinese buyers. Buyers have told us they want our wild fur because of its unique, high quality appearance and luxurious feel,” Premier Bob McLeod said in a press release.

The GNWT’s trip last week was the first since the Council of the Federation trade mission to China in 2012. The GNWT was present on that mission to gauge Chinese investment interest in all territorial resources, including diamonds, furs, minerals, oil and gas, tourism and hydro.

Last week’s trip focused in on mining, energy, furs and tourism, according to the GNWT. Fur, in particular, was apparently well received by Chinese trade partners.

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Hunting Makes a Comeback as B.C.ers Take a Deeper Look At Where Their Food Comes From (With Video)

By Ian Austin, The Province January 22, 2014

After decades of decline, hunting is once again on the upswing in B.C.

With E. coli and packing-plant horror stories to contend with, urbanites who want to control what goes into their systems see hunting as a more direct link to their diet — grass-fed, humanely killed, hormone-free.

Resident hunting licences peaked at 174,000 in 1981, but have rebounded in the last seven years from 85,000 in 2005 to 94,000 in 2012.

Concerns over food safety, eating locally and being connected to the food we eat have fuelled the surge.

The B.C. government is bullish on hunting, eliminating hunter-safety program requirements with a goal of at least 100,000 licensed hunters by 2014-15.

“Welcome to the 2012/13 hunting and trapping season!” enthuses Steve Thomson, B.C. minister of forests and lands, in the government’s Hunting and Trapping Synopsis 2012-14.

“Hunting and trapping is an integral part of the social fabric of British Columbia, providing amazing opportunity to appreciate our province’s wild spaces, and the creatures that dwell in them.”

Thomson said the government will spend $2 million this year enhancing habitat for deer, elk, moose, goat, sheep and caribou.

To boost hunting numbers, safety courses have been dropped as a requirement for new hunters and youth hunters aged 10 to 17.

“These changes will give youth and other new hunters an opportunity to find out if they enjoy hunting,” reads the government synopsis, “before requiring them to go through the time and monetary commitment of taking hunter safety training.”

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Brooklyn Clothing Fur Protest Continues Past Two Months

By Vancity Buzz - Jan 2014

The Vancouver Animal Defense League protest in front of Brooklyn Clothing began Nov. 6, 2013, and two months later it is still ongoing.

VADL wants Brooklyn Clothing, located on Davie and Homer Streets, to adopt a fur free policy. They are claiming some products sold at Brooklyn are created through animal cruelty. On the group’s Facebook Page, they appear to have accumulated 130 signatures as of Jan. 2 in support of the protests.

However, Jason Overbo, owner of Brooklyn Clothing, refuses to give in to protesters. In addition, the legality and conduct of the protests is being questioned by both the owner and some nearby residents.

The protesters have been described as “aggressive” and “bullies” and a petition called Urge Vancouver Police to Keep Yaletown Protests Legal has been recently created. See below for letters from the owner and a nearby resident.

Open letter to the protest group from Brooklyn Clothing owner Jason Overbo

I told you I’d keep an open mind. I agreed to meet with you. I promised to do my research. And I have.

I’ve thoroughly studied all the websites you provided as well as several others. In addition, I’ve heard from trappers and local residents who’ve encountered coyotes. I talked to a B.C. wildlife biologist and habitat control officer. I’ve talked to my vendors, my neighbors and many, many of my customers. I’ve read the articles. I’ve watched the videos.

In short, I’ve gathered as much information (from both sides) as possible. Sadly, much of the information on the internet is unsubstantiated.

Unverifiable “facts” abound and statistics with no references are just numbers pulled from thin air that can’t, in good conscience, be taken seriously. I’ve even encountered outright lies. Trying to separate the truth from the fiction is extremely difficult…

So, what can I do?

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Alaska Narwhal Tusk Bust Leads to International Smuggling Ring

ADN.com by CASEY GROVE January 9, 2014

Federal authorities have unveiled their investigation of an international smuggling ring that trafficked at least $1.5 million worth of narwhal tusks, including 19 shipped to Alaska, where the investigation started.

Two Tennessee men, Jay Conrad and Eddie Dunn, have pleaded guilty to trading in illegal animal parts in a conspiracy that stretched across several states and two countries, federal prosecutors revealed this week. Conrad and Dunn admitted to buying narwhal tusks from two Canadians who sneaked the tusks into the United States. Then Conrad and Dunn sold the tusks to various buyers, including, in Dunn's case, people in Alaska, according to court documents.

Federal agents in Alaska were the first to catch on to the scheme, a prosecutor said.

The narwhal is a protected species of whale, characterized by a long tusk protruding from its jaw, that lives in the Arctic waters of Canada and Greenland. Only Natives are allowed to harvest narwhals, and Canadians can only sell the tusks to other Canadians with a special permit. Selling the tusks to Americans has been prohibited under the Marine Mammal Protection Act since 1972.

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Canadian who spent seven years on the run pleads guilty to aiding arsons in U.S. eco-terrorism case

Natioinal Post | Nigel Duara, Associated Press

The Canadian woman at the centre of a seven-year manhunt whose face graced wanted posters around the Pacific Northwest cast a smaller shadow Thursday on a slow walk to her defence table in a Portland, Ore., federal courtroom.

Now a decade removed from her membership in the eco-terrorism group “The Family,” 40-year-old Rebecca Rubin stood slender and erect in her blue jail jumpsuit.

At 10:57 a.m., she said the words she’s been dodging since authorities offered a $50,000 reward for her capture.

“Guilty,” she said, in a voice so soft a judge had to ask her to speak up.

It was the first of three admissions of guilt she made Thursday to arson and conspiracy charges, and with them, consented to give up at least five years of her freedom. She will be sentenced on Jan. 27.

Of course she feels remorse

Rubin’s plea was the latest admission of wrongdoing by members of “The Family” in a series of arsons across three Western states from 1996 to 2001 that did $40 million in damage.

Ten people pleaded guilty in 2007 to conspiracy and arson charges and were sentenced to prison. Two others indicted in the case remain at large.

Her attorney, Richard Troberman, described her seven years on the run as “a prison without walls.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Peifer laid out the factual basis for the charges against her, beginning with the freeing of wild horses from a federal horse-slaughter facility in Oregon in 1997. Other members of the group planted incendiary devices — the indictment doesn’t specify the type of devices — which burned the facility.

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Countering Eco-Terrorism in the United States: The Case of ‘Operation Backfire’

Final Report to the Science & Technology Directorate, U.S. Department of Homeland Security
September 2012

Executive Summary

American counterterrorism officials consider those who commit violent acts in the name of the environment and animal rights a serious threat to homeland security. In congressional testimony more than six years ago, Senator James Inhofe noted that radical actors affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front and Animal Liberation Front had caused more than $110 million in damage between approximately 1995 and 2005 (Inhofe 2005). Since that time, members of the radical environmentalist movement (REM) continue to carve out a prominent place in the domestic terrorism landscape. In this report, we examine a joint, inter-agency investigation, known as Operation Backfire, into acts of eco-terrorism that occurred in the country’s Northwest at the turn of the millennium. The target of Operation Backfire, a group known as the Family, caused more than $40 million in property damage and disrupted numerous lives and businesses from 1996-2001 (Engdall et al. 2007; Likar 2011).

The purpose of this work is to frame Operation Backfire as a terrorism countermeasure and assess what made it effective at dismantling the Family and altering the landscape for actors associated with the REM. Making extensive use of original data (i.e., the Institute for the Study of Violent Groups and the Global Terrorism Database), court documentation related to each of the 18 indictments, and interviews with two key investigators, we examine the concept of eco-terrorism, how to measure counterterrorism effectiveness, resource allocation in inter-agency settings, and deterrence. Our qualitative approach focuses on the characteristics and factors that made the investigation effective.

The measurement of a countermeasure’s efficacy poses numerous challenges since there are various, but no universally accepted, metrics for effectiveness. In this case, successful arrests and convictions are certainly one indicator of Operation Backfire’s effectiveness. But assessments should also take into consideration the expenditure of resources, a comparison of desired results versus the outcomes (e.g., the dismantling of the Family), and the adherence to best practices and regulations. Further, organizational efficacy, which considers the structure of an organization and the performance of its members, should be accounted for. A measure’s ability to adapt to a changing situation is also an important metric that we examine in this study. Lastly, the absence of some future act or event could indicate a countermeasure’s effectiveness, but this relationship is difficult to observe empirically.

This case study represents one of the first histories of Operation Backfire and the Family and lays the groundwork for comparisons in the future. Analysis of this case reveals that Operation Backfire owes its success to an effective organizational framework undertaken by a few, key leaders from various agencies. While the effective use of a cooperating witness was a cornerstone of Operation Backfire, so, too, were Assistant United States Attorney Kirk Engdall’s efforts to pull together several disparate investigations under one authority. Numerous stakeholders from all levels of government comprised a joint, interagency task force that was charged with investigating the Family’s actions and tracking down its members. Throughout, both innovative and classic practices, especially those related to resource management, spurred the approach of key leaders and placed investigators on track to wage an effective prosecution of members of the Family, generating lessons that may be useful to other individuals and agencies engaged in the application of counterterrorism strategies.

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How an Ex-Mountie’s 10-year Narwhal-Tusk Smuggling Scheme Came Crashing Down

National Post | Tristin Hopper | 04/10/13

Little is known of Gregory Logan from court documents. He is a former Mountie, he is in his late 50s, he hails from Grand Prairie, Alta., and, from a summer home in Maine, he orchestrated what may well be the largest narwhal smuggling ring of modern times.

Logan smuggled as many as 250 narwhal tusks past a sleepy border station in northern Maine. Then, from a FedEx station in Bangor, Me., he would package up the conspicuous, spiraled tusks and send them to a network of recipients throughout the United States. Reportedly, it was a scam he kept up for more than 10 years.

This week, a New Brunswick court responded by slapping Logan with what Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq told Nunavut media was “the largest penalty ever handed down in Canada” for a wildlife offence of its kind.

The tusks are one of the most coveted objects from the natural world, adorning scepters and thrones throughout Europe, and reportedly originating the myth of the unicorn. They are really elongated, spiraled teeth that begin to pierce their way through the whale’s face at adolescence, although they are not known to have any use for the narwhals.

While any Canadian with a few thousand dollars can buy the closely regulated tusks from third-party dealers or even small network of Inuit hunters selling the specimens online, the tusks have been illegal to import into the United States since the 1972 passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Naturally, whatever Canadian tusks do slip through into the U.S., can fetch a steep premium from collectors.

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Narwhal 2013: Stranded in a Small Arctic Town

August 19, 2013. 12:27 pm • Section: Arctic Connection, COMMUNITY

Well, we’re still stuck in Pond Inlet.

We haven’t been able to get out into the field, and we’ve pretty much been on standby every day for the last week. The problem is that the flights are originating out of Resolute – and we need to get to Grise Fiord. Between Resolute, Pond Inlet and Grise there have been weather warnings every day – mostly wind.

Grise, as we are finding out, is also a very difficult runway to get onto as it parallels the mountain range that sits right behind the town. In addition, the runway is very short, so only small planes can get in.

There are nine of us here, and so far, everyone seems to be keeping in great spirits. Fortunately, everyone has been North before, so we are all used to the delays (although this one has been overly long).

This morning, the forecasts were much better, and the heavy snowfall predicted for Grise appears to have been pushed off to tomorrow night. As a result, we got the call this morning that the move from Resolute was on and that we could expect to get two or three loads into Grise before the duty day ends for the pilots.

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Narwhal 2013: Finally at Base Camp

August 26, 2013. 3:44 pm • Section: Arctic Connection, COMMUNITY

After a week of waiting, we’ve finally made it to our field camp in Grise Fiord. It’s here that we’ll be conducting research on narwhals: where do they come from? How long do they stay here? Where do they go next?

If there’s anything I’ve learned about doing research in the Arctic, it’s that you’re at the mercy of the weather and you can expect long waits. I write this as part of our team is still stuck in Pond Inlet, their airplane grounded due to the fog.

I, however, managed to get out of Pond Inlet with the others on the research team, flying across northern Baffin Island. A break in the clouds allowed us to peek at the rugged, mountainous terrain down below. We eventually made our way toward Ellesmere Island – Grise Fiord is on the south coast of the island.

Once we arrived in the tiny hamlet of Grise Fiord (where there was snow on the ground, unusual for this time of year), we were on to our next challenge: schlepping our gear to the rocky shore and hauling it on to the boat with only part of our team to do the heavy lifting.

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Narwhal 2013: First Sighting of Narwhals for Research

August 28, 2013. 5:07 pm • Section: Arctic Connection, COMMUNITY

After a long journey here, I’ve finally spotted the animals I have come to help research: narwhals. We saw them coming down the channel, a few on each side. They eventually met in the middle of the channel before disappearing. The Inuit on our team could tell by this behaviour that they weren’t local narwhals. The local ones tend to hug the shoreline, while those new to the area are more wary and stay closer to the middle.

Another time, we saw around a hundred narwhals pass by us. By this point, we had had our zodiacs in the water to set up a net for tagging, but they all passed without even touching it.

Although we haven’t been too lucky on the narwhal front yet, I am encouraged by the improvement in weather. It’s cold – just above zero degrees during the day and just below zero at night – but we’re not dealing with the type of wind that descended on our camp just days before. We had to move quickly to make sure everything was tied down, so that it wouldn’t all blow away.

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Narwhal 2013: One Final Research Push

September 6, 2013. 4:21 pm • Section: Arctic Connection, COMMUNITY

Our time conducting narwhal research outside Grise Fiord, Nunavut has come to an end.

With a research site picked out for next year, it was time to pack up our current site. While we broke camp, we left the net in the water, hoping that we’d have the chance to tag and measure at least one narwhal this summer.

Even though we were unsuccessful in our attempts to tag and measure any narwhals, I don’t believe that it was a total loss regarding our research efforts. In past years, we conducted our research in Tremblay Sound – this was our first year at a new location farther north. It was a learning experience that produced new partnerships between people from different fields: Fisheries and Oceans Canada, scientists, veterinarians, volunteers, and local organizations and people based in Grise Fiord.

This year’s research was made especially challenging because of the weather – it has been very unusual this year, according to local standards. I’ve been told by the locals that this type of weather (blizzards) is not usually seen until October. Not only do the wind and snow make it hard to do narwhal research; it also makes it harder to keep a watch out for polar bears too.

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Hunters Fined $80K for Hunting Without Export Permits

CBC News - Posted: Apr 8, 2013

Mexican hunters had polar bear pelts, narwhal tusks from hunt in Nunavut

Some big-game hunters from Mexico were fined after a polar bear hunting trip in Nunavut.

The four men from Monterey, Mexico, were caught trying to leave Canada a week ago with three polar bear hides. They hunted the bears legally, but they did not have export permits.

The men also had three narwhal tusks they had apparently bought, also without permits.

Hector Martinez Jr. is a wealthy property developer in Monterey. He was travelling with his two adult sons and his godson.

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Russians Say Canadian Documents Help Polar Bear Poachers

Bob Weber, Canadian Press | 13/04/14

Russian officials are becoming increasingly concerned about polar bear poachers in their country using Canadian documents to disguise illegally hunted pelts.

“I think it is a real problem,” said Nikita Ovsyanikov, one of Russia’s top polar bear scientists and a member of the polar bear specialist group, the leading international research consortium on the mighty and controversial predators.

Ovsyanikov claims that Canadian documents required to bring hides into the country are being separated from the shipments they originally accompanied and sold separately. The certificates are then applied to skins from Russian polar bears to make them appear as if they have been legally hunted and imported.

Canada is the only country in the world that allows sport hunting of polar bears, which makes it the only country to issue certificates under the Convention on Trade In Endangered Species that allow polar bear products to cross borders.

“I’m aware of two cases where not pelts, but certificates were offered for sale on the Internet,” Ovsyanikov in an interview with The Canadian Press from Moscow. “The price was $1,000 so it was quite a profitable business.”

Groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare have raised similar concerns.

They have released an Internet screen grab from last October showing what appears to be a Canadian CITES certificate along with a polar bear rug. The price is 30,000 rubles — about $1,000.

“It was marked ‘Sold,’” translated Maria Vorontsova, a member of the Fund’s Moscow branch. “It was referring to the certificate, not the hide.:

Ovsyanikov said polar bear hides sell in Russia for up to $50,000.

Such pelts are increasingly popular among Russia’s elite. Canadian auction houses have said they can’t meet demand for the hides, most of which go to Russia.

Russian officials, supported by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, used concerns over the Canadian documents aiding poachers to argue that all trade in polar bear parts should be banned at the recent CITES meeting in Bangkok.

However, Canadian scientists aren’t sure there’s a problem.

Geoff York of the World Wildlife Fund said his group looked into the accusations about a year ago and failed to find much evidence.

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Polar Bear Hunt Ends in Fines

Winnipeg Free Press - Aldo Santin - Posted: 04/6/2013

Big-game hunters from Mexico legally shot and killed three polar bears this week in Canada's North but were stopped in their tracks when they tried to take the hides out of the country without the proper permits.

A Winnipeg judge blasted them with $80,000 in fines Friday, days after the hunting trip to Nunavut.

Acting on a tip, Environment Canada wildlife officers and Canada Border Services agents searched the men's private jet last Sunday as it refuelled in Winnipeg and found three polar bear hides and narwhal tusks.

The men did not have the proper export permits.

The four men pleaded guilty in provincial court Friday and paid their fines in cash.

Defence lawyer Evan Roitenberg, who represented three of the men -- a 67-year-old man and his two adult sons -- described his clients as "gentlemen of means" who simply made a mistake by trusting an outfitter who promised to provide all necessary permits.

The four men travelled to Canada on March 15 from Monterrey, Mexico, aboard a private jet, after paying $35,000 each to participate in an Arctic big-game hunt.

Polar bears are protected under Canadian law and international treaty, so polar bears can only be harvested by Inuit hunters for sustenance, or by sport hunters guided by Inuit.

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Mexicans Fined for Trying to Export Polar Bears

JAMES TURNER | QMI AGENCY

WINNIPEG - A Winnipeg judge handed out $80,000 in fines Friday to a group of high-flying Mexican trophy hunters snared at the airport without the permits required to export several polar bears they bagged on a hunting trip in Canada's north.

Hector Armando Martinez, 67, Alejandro Martinez, 35, and Gerardo Rodriguez, 41, faced infractions under federal environmental protection and international trade laws after the private jet belonging to Hector Armando Martinez was searched at the Winnipeg airport March 31.

A fourth man, Hector Martinez Martinez, 38, was charged under the Fisheries Act in connection to two narwhal tusks which were seized.

The men paid $35,000 each for a legal hunting trip to far-flung parts of Nunavut which began in mid-March, court heard. However, wildlife officials were tipped off they might be trying to return to Mexico without required export permits for game they killed.

A search of the hunters' plane by Canada Border Services Agency officials found this was the case, Judge Kelly Moar was told.

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Mexican Polar Bear Hunters Fined $80K

NAWEOA | Thursday, 11 April 2013 | Rob G Brandenburg

A Winnipeg judge handed out $80,000 in fines Friday to a group of high-flying Mexican trophy hunters snared at the airport without the permits required to export several polar bears they bagged on a hunting trip in Canada’s north. Hector Armando Martinez Martinez, 67, Alejandro Martinez, 35, and Gerardo Rodriguez, 41, faced infractions under federal environmental protection and international trade laws after the private jet belonging to Hector Armando Martinez was searched at the Winnipeg airport March 31

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Illegal Trophy Export Attempt of Arctic Trophies Costs Mexican Hunters $80,000

NEWS: Around the Arctic April 08, 2013

Nabbed in Winnipeg, hunters head home empty-handed

JANE GEORGE

Four Mexican hunters returning from Nunavut paid $80,000 in fines April 5 before they made a hasty retreat from Winnipeg back to Mexico — heading home without their polar bear and narwhal trophies.

The men paid individual fines ranging from $10,000 to $30,000 to the federal government for offenses under the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act and the Fisheries Act.

They were fined after Environment Canada wildlife officers received a tip last week that hunters were planning to take three polar bear hides and three narwhal tusks back to Mexico in a private jet, but without having first obtained the necessary export permits.

Hector Martinez, a property developer in the northern Mexican hub of Monterey, his two sons, Hector Armando Martinez and Alejandro Martinez, who work for their father, and Martinez’s godson, Gerardo Jimeno Rodriguez, a businessman, had arrived March 15 in Canada with a group of other Mexican hunters.

The group then split up, with some heading for Resolute Bay and the others to Cambridge Bay.

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Inuit Response to US Polar Bear Uplisting at CITES

Speech: March 06, 2013

PROPOSAL 3: NGO INTERVENTION

Terry Audla

President, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami

(Inuktitut)

My name is Terry Audla. I represent Inuit, the Indigenous Peoples of Arctic Canada, as the President of our national organization, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami.

Thank you for giving Inuit a voice today, a voice seldom heard in venues such as this … and a voice that needs to be heard.

I would like to begin by congratulating CITES on 40 years of work. This is important work.

It is essential to recognize, as well, that your decisions here this week and next week affect the human species as well as wildlife.

This proposal is not about taking action on climate change. A vote in favour of this proposal will have absolutely no effect on greenhouse gas emissions.

It is not about protecting polar bears. A vote in favour of this proposal will have no effect whatsoever on hunting quotas.

That’s right. Our hunt is a legal harvest and will continue regardless of an uplisting.

But if you choose to vote in favour of this proposal, you are choosing to significantly reduce the livelihoods of Canadian Inuit.

Your decision will have a direct and immediate impact on our lives.

For those of you who have not spoken with us this week and do not realize the impact of your decision, I urge you now to support Inuit livelihoods and oppose Proposal 3.

(Pause)

Please realize, as well, that your decision is crucial to the integrity of CITES.

As experts from around the world (your own CITES Secretariat, TRAFFIC, the Polar Bear Specialists Group, WWF International, PEW Environmental Group, and others) have acknowledged, this proposal does not meet the criteria for Appendix I.

In fact, you acknowledged this yourselves at the last Conference of the Parties three years ago in Doha by voting to oppose this same proposal.

I ask that you trust your own good judgment in making your decision again today.

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U.S. Proposal to Ban Cross-Border Polar Bear Trade Fails

The Associated Press: Mar 7, 2013

Inuit welcome news that ban was defeated

A proposal by the United States to ban cross-border trade in polar bears and their parts was defeated Thursday at an international meeting of conservationists, marking a victory for Canada's Inuit over their big neighbour to the south.

Delegates at the triennial meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, or CITES, rejected Washington's proposal to change the status of the polar bear from a species whose trade is merely regulated, not banned.

The proposal fell far short of the two-thirds needed to pass, garnering 38 votes in favour, 42 against and 46 abstentions. A similar proposal was defeated three years ago at the last CITES meeting.

While support for most of the meeting's 70 proposals covering the trade in other species fell along predictable lines, the U.S. proposal made for some odd bedfellows. Russia endorsed Washington's proposal, which was also supported by a cluster of animal humane societies. Canada was joined in opposition by some of the larger conservation organizations, including the CITES Secretariat and the Wildlife Trade Monitoring Network, better known as TRAFFIC.

The worldwide population of polar bears is estimated to be 20,000 to 28,000, with about two-thirds in Canada.

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PETA Calls Lady Gaga

InFurMag.com

Lady Gaga and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals haven't been the best of friends this year; ever since the superstar began openly wearing fur and defending her right to do so, the animal rights organization has been denouncing her in a series of statements. The latest denunciation comes in response to a fur-buying spree the singer went on in Russia recently.

The New York Post reports that Gaga was spotted last week at a Moscow boutique picking out a green-dyed silver fox coat worth more than $19,000, and a dark brown Barguzin Russian sable that sells for around $210,000. Insiders say Gaga wore the sable out of the store when she finished her shopping.

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Officials Crack Canadian-U.S. Narwhal Smuggling Ring

PORTLAND, Maine — The Globe and Mail — Jan. 03 2013

A smuggling ring brought narwhal tusks from the Canadian Arctic into Maine in a trailer with a secret compartment and then illegally sold them to American buyers, officials said.

Andrew Zarauskas, of Union, N.J., and Jay Conrad, of Lakeland, Tenn., will be arraigned in Bangor, Maine, next week on 29 federal smuggling and money laundering charges each.

For nearly a decade, two Canadians smuggled the whale tusks into Maine and shipped them via FedEx to Mr. Zarauskas, Mr. Conrad and other unnamed American buyers, according to an indictment.

Narwhals are known as the unicorns of the sea for their spiral, ivory tusks that can grow longer than 8 feet. The tusks can sell for thousands of dollars each, but it’s illegal to import them into the U.S.

The court document doesn’t specify how much money was involved, but it says the Canadian sellers received at least 150 payments from tusk buyers.

“The conspiracy we’ve alleged was over a period of 10 years, so there appears to have been enough of a market to support that length of conduct,” said Todd Mikolop, who is prosecuting the case for the environmental crimes section of the Department of Justice.

Narwhals live in Arctic waters and are harvested by Inuit hunters for their meat, skin and tusks, said Calvin Kania, president of Furcanada in British Columbia, which sells tusks to buyers who want them for display purposes or to turn into jewelry.

The tusks range from 3 feet to more than 8 feet, and typically sell for $1,000 to $7,000 each, Mr. Kania said. He ships tusks worldwide, but not to countries that prohibit imports, including the U.S., the United Kingdom and Australia.

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Alleged Narwhal-Tusk Smuggling Operation Smashed in Joint Canada-U.S. Effort

Randy Boswell, Postmedia News | Jan 2, 2013

Federal environment officials in Canada and the United States have cracked an alleged smuggling operation that saw scores of narwhal tusks from the Canadian Arctic illegally shipped across the New Brunswick-Maine border in the secret compartment of a trailer.

Gregory and Nina Logan of Grande Prairie, Alta., are facing 28 charges in New Brunswick in connection with the alleged export of the tusks of the narwhal, a threatened Arctic whale, to customers in the U.S. — a violation of Canadian and American laws shaped by CITES, an international treaty that regulates the commercial trade in animal parts of vulnerable species.

And in December, the U.S. Department of Justice unsealed an indictment alleging that two unnamed Canadians and two U.S. citizens — Andrew Zarauskas of Union, N.J., and Jay Conrad of Lakeland, Tenn. — conspired for close to a decade to transport the valuable whale tusks to U.S. buyers via the Milltown border crossing between St. Stephen, N.B., and Calais, Maine.

While the prosecutions in Canada and the U.S. are unfolding separately, the dozens of charges laid in the two cases appear to stem from the same alleged, cross-border tusk-smuggling ring.

The tusks — which routinely fetch prices of thousands of dollars each, and even $10,000 or more for superb specimens — can be sold within Canada or to select international markets, but not to the U.S. or other countries that have laws forbidding imports of certain animal parts.

Sometimes reaching three metres in length, the spiraled, spear-like narwhal tusk is coveted by collectors as one of the most exquisite creations of nature. The tusk — which is actually a kind of super-sensitive tooth that grows from the upper jaw of most male narwhals and may play a role in mate selection — is also believed to have inspired the ancient myth about magical horses with a long, perfect horn projecting from their heads: the unicorn.

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Future of Canada's Fur Industry Depends on Designers

PAUL WALDIE - The Globe and Mail
Friday, Nov. 23 2012

Paula Lishman is a conservationist, fashion designer and represents the future of the fur industry in Canada.

Many of her creations involve using beaver, muskrat and fox fur in new ways – as fabrics, threads and yarn – to make a variety of garments ranging from hats, mitts and scarves to head bands, jackets and even armrest covers for wheelchairs. She also makes fabric out of beaver pelts and dyes it in up to 400 colours.

Fur “feels amazing and I think it has a really good future because it’s not made of non-renewable products. It’s not polluting and it is warmer than anything,” said Ms. Lishman, who is also president of the Fur Council of Canada.

“Man has just never been able to reproduce anything that has the sensuality and the feeling of fur,” said Ms. Lishman, whose company, Paula Lishman International, is based in Port Perry, Ont.

Canada’s fur industry is depending on designers such as Ms. Lishman, who have moved away from making full-length coats and turned instead to using fur in trims and accessories. For now, anyway, the move appears to be working.

Fur sales have been rising steadily in recent years. The number of pelts on mink farms in Canada increased to 2.6 million last year from two million in 2007, according to Statistics Canada. And prices for those pelts have been holding steady at around $100 per pelt on average, compared with about $20 in the early 1990s.

“In the last couple of years, [the market] has really been taking off,” Fur Council spokesman Alan Herscovici said.

Prices for wild furs, such as beaver, fox and muskrat, have also been trending higher. Toronto-based North American Fur Auctions reported strong sales at its latest auction in October and sold nearly all of its fur. “The outlook at this time for most of our wild fur products is excellent and is the foundation for another outstanding February sale,” the company said in a recent report.

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"Biopsy Darting" Baffin Bay Polar Bears

CBC News - Posted: Oct 18, 2012

[[ This is a photo slideshow ... click the Read More link below to see the photos ]]

A major survey of polar bears on Baffin Bay in Nunavut is underway – researchers hope to provide some answers as to how many bears can be sustainably hunted by Inuit in the region.

All photos are by Paul Tukker/CBC.

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Flipper Flop

The Telegram - Opinion - Editorial - October 11, 2012

Organized seal culls are bad — unless they're in Europe.

Seals don't threaten fish stocks — unless they're European seals.

It appears what most fishermen on this side of the Atlantic have known all along is now being taken seriously by politicians on the other side.

And the sheer hypocrisy of seal culls in northern Europe stinks worse than last week's fish guts festering on a beach.

Canadian Sealers Association president Frank Pinhorn certainly thinks so.

"It's two-faced," he told CBC news on Tuesday. "Individuals making decisions that are not thought out, and it doesn't demonstrate any … common sense."

He's referring to the 2009 European Union ban on seal products, a ban Canada is challenging through the World Trade Organization.

As it turns out, Scotland already culls some seals to protect its farmed salmon operations. Seals are also culled in Finland and Sweden.

Last month, the European Parliament approved a motion to investigate the effect on fish populations of "natural predators such as sea lions, seals and cormorants," with an eye to possibly expanding culls.

So, where does the mighty International Fund for Animal Welfare stand on this?

It's hard to tell. They'll respond to media questions, but their website is still obsessed with Canadian seals.

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Canada Opposes EU Seal Cull

By Jessica Hume, Parliamentary Bureau, October 09, 2012 - Toronto Sun

OTTAWA - Despite imposing a trade ban on seal products from Canada in 2009, the European Commission has no problem calling for a seal cull of its own.

Calling the measure an attempt to manage the seal population, the Scottish government has approved a cull of 878 grey seals and 289 common seals in the hopes that less seals will mean more cod and other fish stocks.

Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, is not impressed.

"This just demonstrates how hypocritical they are," he said. "You need a sustainable, viable way of dealing with this and what they do is wasteful; it's indiscriminate killing. We have a three-step process that has been approved by vets."

Canada recently challenged the EU's 2009 ruling before the World Trade Organization and "looks forward to moving ahead with the WTO dispute settlement process in the coming months," according to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

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Canada Keeping Tabs On EU's Plan To Cull Seal Population

BILL CURRY - OTTAWA — The Globe and Mail; Oct. 08 2012

Europe is facing a seal-shooting controversy in its own backyard, as concern over fish stocks and nuisance seals led the European Parliament to approve a plan to "manage" its seal population.

Canada's sealing industry says the recent events are highly hypocritical given Europe's condemnation of Canada's commercial seal hunt.

Reports out of Scotland, Ireland and England in recent weeks have focused on growing tension between seal advocates and the fishing industry, which argues seal populations need to be culled in order to protect fish stocks.

Local environmentalists are condemning a Scottish government-approved cull that has granted licences to kill 878 grey seals and 289 common seals this year.

Beyond the debate over approved culls, there are also reports of seals being killed without a licence.

Last month, the European Parliament weighed in, approving a resolution on a "Common Fisheries Policy" that calls on the European Commission "to investigate the reduction in fish stocks owing to natural predators such as sea lions, seals and cormorants, and to draw up and implement management plans to regulate these populations in co-operation with the affected Member States."

This is the same European Parliament that voted in 2009 to ban commercial seal products, a decision Canada is fighting before the World Trade Organization.

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Canada, Norway Press Ahead with EU Seal Ban Challenge

ICTSD | 8th October 2012

Canada and Norway have surprised many in the trade community by proceeding to the next formal stage in their challenge of the EU's ban on seal products (DS400, DS401). In requesting the WTO Director-General to appoint a panel of experts to review the case, Ottawa and Oslo re-ignited a dispute that has not advanced at the global trade arbiter since March 2011 (see Bridges Trade BioRes, 4 April 2011).

Adding to the growing list of recent disagreements between trading partners under the WTO's Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT) Agreement, this emotionally-charged row could be the first of its kind to ask the WTO to specifically rule on considerations of animal welfare or public morality as justifying limits on trade.

The panel nominations are expected to become public during the coming days.

Dormant disputes

The case, arising from a complaint launched by Canada and Norway in November 2009, concerns a 2009 EU Regulation banning the marketing of seal products from commercial sealing operations in the 27-country bloc. In their WTO complaints, the Canadian and Norwegian governments argue that the ban breaches the WTO's fundamental non-discrimination principles, as well as Articles 1 and 2 of the TBT Agreement, which mandate that technical regulations be non-discriminatory and not be more trade restrictive than necessary.

While the directive justifies the ban on the basis of the allegedly inhumane nature of seal hunting, Canada and Norway have long argued that seal hunting is a legitimate economic pursuit, and that the hunting methods in question are sustainable.

"The Atlantic and northern harvests are humane, sustainable, and well-regulated activities that provide an important source of food and income for coastal and Inuit communities," the Canadian Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans said in a statement. "The Government of Canada is firmly committed to defending our sealing industry and the coastal and northern communities that depend on the seal harvest."

"For the Norwegian authorities, this issue involves important principles, such as our right to sustainably harvest our living marine resources and to sell products derived from hunting and fishing," the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs added in a statement.

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Government Pushes Own Trade Agenda

October 5, 2012 - Views and News from Norway

Just as Norway's government is sparking anger in Brussels over its intention to boost important tariffs on meat and cheese, it's also fighting a ban on the sale of its own seal products within the European Union. Norway is gearing up to defend the complaint it lodged with the World Trade Organization (WTO), part of ongoing efforts to set its own trade agenda.

The EU ban on imports of seal products poses no great economic threat to Norway, which is far wealthier than most EU countries not least because of its oil and gas resources. Fighting the ban is, rather, "a matter of principle," Torgeir Larsen, state secretary in the foreign ministry, told newspaper Aftenposten last week.

Officials in EU countries, angry at Norway's attempts to block imports of their own meat and cheese, might say the same. They contend the Norwegian government, which recently caved in to the demands of its farmer-friendly coalition partner, the Center Party, is violating the spirit of an agreement among European nations, including Norway, to gradually liberalize trade among members of the EU and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA).

The seal battle has gone on for years, with opponents upset over the apparent brutality of the seal hunt. The EU, however, accepts hunts "traditionally conducted by Inuit and other indigenous communities and which contribute to their subsistence." The EU hasn't banned seal hunting in Norway, it just doesn't want to support any hunt that's not vital to the country carrying it out.

Canada has also complained of unfair trade restrictions imposed on it by the EU trade ban, with Norway following. Aftenposten reported that Norway exported NOK 2.7 million worth of seal products to Canada. Some of the Inuit communities exempted by the EU ban are in Canada, but Canada as a whole felt compelled to challenge the ban along with Norway.

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Canada Forges On Against EU Seal Ban

BILL CURRY - OTTAWA — Globe and Mail - Sep. 24 2012

Canada is pushing ahead with a legal battle against the European Union over the seal hunt even as both sides enter the final stretch of free-trade negotiations.

Ottawa is asking the World Trade Organization (WTO) to appoint a panel that will hear Canada's challenge of the EU's ban on seal products. Canada argues its hunt is humane and sustainable and that the 2009 ban violates the EU's international trade pledges.

Canada first announced its WTO challenge more than three years ago, but the case hadn't gone anywhere and was assumed by some to have been abandoned.

The move, which was announced Monday, comes as Canada and the EU are working on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that the Conservative government promises to conclude by the end of 2012.

Adam Taylor, a spokesperson for Trade Minister Ed Fast, insisted the WTO complaint and the free-trade talks are two separate issues. But many in the European Parliament strongly disagree.

Last year more than 100 members of the 753-member European Parliament signed an open letter vowing to oppose CETA unless Canada abandons its WTO case.

The letter called Canada's WTO challenge "an attack on both European and Canadian values and European democratic processes." In 2009, the European Parliament voted in favour of regulations that ban the sale of commercial seal products. That same body must also vote to approve any trade deal that is negotiated with Canada.

The EU delegation in Ottawa issued a muted response Monday, saying Canada's WTO request "follows the normal course of this legal process."

"On our part, we continue to defend our position and remain confident that the measure in question is non-discriminatory and in conformity with the WTO. The final say, of course, rests with the WTO panel," read the statement, which was provided by an EU spokesperson.

One Canadian trade lawyer, Simon Potter at McCarthy Tétrault, previously estimated the WTO challenge would cost Ottawa $10-million. That's far more than the current annual value of the seal hunt. According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the total value of Canadian seal products has declined from $34.3-million in 2006 to $1.3-million in 2010.

Former Canadian trade negotiator Peter Clark, who currently advises parties connected to the CETA negotiations, said he doesn't think Canada's WTO case will delay the free-trade talks, but the strong anti-sealing sentiment in the EU Parliament can't be ignored.

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Fur Flies Over RCMP's 'Coyote Strips' Order

Force says synthetic fibres do not provide the warmth required in extreme northern climates

By Ian MacLeod, Postmedia News October 13, 2012

The RCMP is hunting for 2,000 pieces of thick coyote fur to warm the thin blue line.

The force issued a request for proposals Friday to supply it with Canadian "coyote strips" to line the hoods of parkas issued to officers. The initial call is for 2,000 strips, with an option for 1,000 more. The estimated value is $100,000 to $250,000.

"The fur requirement is necessary in providing members with adequate warmth in extreme inclement weather conditions including some of the most northern communities of this country," the force said in email statement.

Already, though, the fur is flying.

"Our belief is that fur belongs on animals and not the RCMP," said Lesley Fox, executive director of the Vancouver-based Association for the Protection of Fur Bearing Animals.

The group has long urged the Mounties to switch from furs for its hats and parkas to natural fibres and synthetic furs.

But the Mounties aren't budging.

"The characteristics of fur have been found to surpass those of commercially available synthetic fur to meet various and extreme inclement weather conditions encountered by RCMP members during their operational duties at various locations in Canada," it said in the press statement.

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EU Makes Pitch For Arctic Cooperation

"The time has come to work together, constructively and with determination on the future of the Arctic."

NUNATSIAQ NEWS

The European Union has a stake in what happens in the Arctic, says Maria Damanaki, the European Commissioner for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries, who argued Oct 4 for more cooperation between the EU and Arctic states.

Speaking at the annual Arctic Futures conference in Brussels, Damanaki addressed scientists, academics, business representatives, indigenous groups and policymakers, "in the heart of Europe, to discuss future scenarios for the Arctic."

The EU itself is "an Arctic actor by virtue of three Arctic states, Denmark, Finland and Sweden," she said — "four, if Iceland accedes to the EU."

"The EU stands ready to aid the region's sustainable development: supporting Arctic research, boosting economic development, combating global warming and developing greener technologies, while collaborating in international bodies to set high environmental and safety standards for the Arctic, " Damanaki said.

The EU is also a key investor in the Arctic's economic development, she said.

"In the last five years alone we have delivered over 1.1 billion [euros] in programmes stretching from Greenland to the Urals," she said.

The EU is also exploring the Arctic from space, she said, because "due to its remoteness and its harsh environment, earth-orbiting satellites have to be used for science, research and communication."

As the ice retreats, a number of new opportunities could open up in the Arctic, she said,

Off-shore drilling in the Arctic now becomes a viable option for big oil companies, she said, because "though we may be greening the global economy, oil and gas remain vital."

Arctic shipping is also due for "a big comeback."

Remote Arctic cities such as Tromsø, Reykjavik, Murmansk and Nuuk will be on the transport grids to Europe, Asia or the Americas and will have the chance to become "central trading hubs", she said.

And as the waters of the North Atlantic and Arctic get warmer, "we will see more and more fish stocks moving north."

"Last, but not least, the region is also thought to be rich of minerals such as iron, zinc, copper, diamonds, gold and rare earths," she said. "The EU is the largest economic block in the world, so clearly, the importance of the Arctic for us is only bound to increase,"

But all these opportunities also carry responsibilities, she noted.

"Utmost care should be taken to minimize the risks of pollution from shipping and offshore drilling, as oil spills and accidents would have grave consequences on the Arctic's precious ecosystems. If they do take place, systems should be in place for a swift and effective clean-up."

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Atanarjuat Star Shoots Polar Bear In Self-Defence

Bear Was Staring Into Man's Cabin

CBC News - Oct 11, 2012

An Igloolik, Nunavut, man was forced to shoot a polar bear in self-defence after it came too close to his cabin.

Natar Ungalaaq, an Inuk actor well-known for his role in Atanarjuat (The Fast Runner), said on Wednesday that he woke to an alarming sight — a bear was staring into his cabin.

He says he shot the bear when it looked in through a window without glass in his porch area.

Ungalaaq said he was scared to be that close to the animal.

"I had an experience of shooting that bear you know, almost naked you know. The last movie that I was [in I was] all naked but this time I had to use shorts to get out from my bed, and shoot that bear but, last night I was not smiling," he said.

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Scientists Call for Experimental Cull of 73,000 Seals

The Canadian Press - Mar 23, 2011

Junk science and questionable political motives are behind a new federal report that calls for an experimental cull of 70 per cent of the grey seals in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, a leading critic of Canada's annual seal hunt says.

Rebecca Aldworth, Canadian director of Humane Society International, was reacting Wednesday to the release of a science advisory report that says Ottawa should consider a five-year study that would start with the slaughter of 73,000 grey seals in an area stretching from eastern New Brunswick to Cape Breton, N.S.

The study, produced by the Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat, says the experiment would determine whether significantly reducing the grey seal population in the Gulf would help cod stocks recover from a drastic decline.

However, it also acknowledges there are such large gaps in research on the problem that a large-scale seal cull could just as easily lead to wiping out cod in the Gulf.

Calls to the federal Fisheries Department, which commissioned the study, were not returned Wednesday.

Denny Morrow, head of the Nova Scotia Fish Packers Association, said the study represents a step forward for science.

"There's data there that indicates that the recovery of codfish stocks in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and probably other areas is being held back by the amount of grey seal predators," he said in an interview.

Morrow acknowledged there were scientific gaps in the research, particularly about the grey seal diet. But he said the document included one peer-reviewed study showing that the amount of cod in the diet of male grey seals reached as high as 41 per cent in the winter months.

"Fishermen have known this for years," he said. "If you've got large concentrations of cod, and you see a lot of grey seals, it doesn't take too much science to understand what is going on."

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Retreating Arctic Ice, Poaching will Wipe Out Polar Bears Within 25 Years: Expert

Matthew Fisher, Postmedia News | Oct 12, 2012

ST. PETERSBURG — While Arctic sea ice reached a record low this summer, it is not widely known almost all the ice that melted or drifted away was on the Russian, not the Canadian and Greenlandic side of the great northern sea.

One immediate consequence has been further grief and peril for Russia's already seriously distressed polar bears.

"It is worse for Russian polar bears than the bears in Canada or Greenland because the pack ice is retreating much faster in our waters," said Nikita Ovsyannikov, deputy director of Russia's polar bear reserve on Wrangel Island in the Chukchi Sea northwest of Alaska. "The best habitat is quickly disappearing. It is extreme.

"What we are seeing right now is very late freezing. Our polar bear population is obviously declining. It used to be that new ice was thick enough for them to walk on in late October. It now will happen much later."

Figuring out how many bears still survived on and near the Chukchi Sea — home to the largest of Russia's four polar bear populations — was difficult because they were spread across such a vast area, said the zoologist, who has spent his life studying bears in the High Arctic.

He guessed the number of bears around the Chukchi Sea, which also sometimes migrate in small numbers to western Alaska, had dropped over the past three decades from "about 4,000 to no more than 1,700 at best."

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European Seal Cull Called Hypocritical

Seals to be killed in Scotland, Finland, Sweden to protect fish stocks

CBC News - Oct 10, 2012

The Canadian Sealers Association is slamming European politicians for allowing seals to be killed within their own waters, while banning Canadian seal products.

"What it shows is what they're doing now is hypocritical," said Frank Pinhorn, the association's executive director, reacting to how seals are being culled in Scotland to protect spawning salmon.

European parliamentarians also voted recently to co-ordinate seal population control measures because of the threat they pose to fish stocks.

In Sweden and Finland, seals are also killed despite the European Union's long-standing objections to Canada's hunt of harp seals, which European politicians have often cast as cruel

"It's two-faced. Individuals making decisions that are not thought out and it doesn't demonstrate any sense of common sense," said Pinhorn.

"It's already underway over there. We know for a fact that in Scotland they're culling seals on their aquaculture sites," Pinhorn said.

[ Read More ]

U.S. Proposes Ban on Polar Bear Trade

Vote on proposal set for March 2013 at CITES meeting in Thailand

CBC News - Oct 5, 2012

The United States is again lobbying for an international ban on the trade of polar bear parts, after a previous attempt failed in 2010.

Officials have submitted a proposal to reclassify the animals under Appendix I — as a species threatened with extinction — of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES. That would shut down the commercial trade of hides, teeth and claws.

It would also effectively shut down international polar bear sport hunts.

This is the second time the U.S. has tried to get a ban on the international trade of polar bear parts. In 2010, the first American proposal was defeated at a meeting in Qatar.

Nunavut Tunngavik, the Nunavut land claims organization, is outraged by the move.

"The polar bear population is very healthy right now and traditional knowledge says that the numbers are increasing," said NTI vice-president James Eeteelook.

Canada is home to about two-thirds of the world's 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami president Terry Audla said he was disappointed by the American proposal.

Officials from NTI, ITK, the Inuvialuit Game Council, the Government of Nunavut and the Government of Canada, went to Washington this year to talk to U.S. politicians about Canadian polar bear populations and Inuit harvesting practices and to lobby against an Appendix I proposal.

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Who’s in trouble, polar bears or people?

Margaret Wente | Tuesday, Apr. 10, 2012

The polar bears of Hudson Bay are among the most endearing creatures on the planet. On Sunday, a remarkable documentary broadcast on the CBC showed them at their most compelling. Narrated by David Suzuki, the film Polar Bears: A Summer Odyssey features stunning images and a story line that will have your kids in tears. It follows an adolescent bear, a teenager, as he struggles for survival and navigates the frigid ocean for the first time alone, without his mother. We learn that the polar bears, who feed almost entirely during the winter, are in danger of starving to death because of global warming.

“Each year, the ice melts earlier,” Mr. Suzuki tells us. “Today’s bears have less time on the ice than their parents and grandparents … When the ice finally vanishes, the long, hot summer begins.” This population, we are told, has dwindled by 22 per cent in less than two decades.

Or has it? Last week, the government of Nunavut released a population survey of those very same bears. It was considerably more optimistic. It estimates the bear population on the western shore of Hudson Bay at 1,013, which is a lot higher than some thought. “The bear population is not in crisis as people believed,” said Drikus Gissing, Nunavut’s director of wildlife management.

This is awful news for the David Suzuki Foundation and other environmental groups that depend on the plight of the polar bear to raise money. After all, polar bears are even more photogenic than baby seals. The stakes are so high that polar-bear statistics are bitterly disputed.

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Too Cute to Die? Experts Say We’re Too Selective About Species We Choose to Protect

Tom Spears, Postmedia News - Apr 23, 2012

OTTAWA — For endangered species, it pays to be a large mammal with sad eyes that cuddles its babies. Glamorous animals, big predators and, above all, the extremely cute and fuzzy stand a chance of getting people to protect them and their habitats.

Ugly animals — as judged by human eyes — are far more likely to be left aside when humans draw up conservation plans. Anyone care to save Ontario’s rattlesnakes?

Canadian ecology experts say such thinking means we’re in danger of re-shaping nature to beautify it according to human notions of what’s pretty, saving the mammals but letting the reptiles and amphibians disappear.

As for plants, they’re barely even on the list of candidates for protection.

This thought struck Ernie Small a couple of years ago at a conference on endangered species.

Small is a veteran research scientist at Agriculture Canada in Ottawa. He’s a plant specialist with a strong interest in ecology that doesn’t confine itself to farms.

Confronted with this notion that we’re selectively protecting species for all the wrong reasons, he produced a research paper, recently published in a science journal called Biodiversity.

His article is called The New Noah’s Ark, a reference to the Biblical story of Noah building a ship to save animals from drowning. But while Noah rescued everything in sight, Small says today’s conservation is for “beautiful and useful species only.”

There’s broad support for “marquee and poster species,” he writes: whales, pandas, polar bears, elephants.

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Let’s Put the Hysteria Over Polar Bears on Ice

Postmedia News - April 17, 2012

What’s the deal with Canada’s polar bear populations? Are they threatened? On the verge of extinction? Or, could it be that they are just fine and maybe it’s time for mankind to move on to some other worrisome issue?

A new survey by the Nunavut government suggests that polar bear populations are stable, despite all the predictions and expectations of drastic declines.

According to Drikus Gissing, Nunavut’s director of wildlife management, there is “no gloom and doom” story and “this is not a crisis situation as a lot of people would like the world to believe.” In fact, he believes that Canada’s polar bear count “is likely the highest there has ever been.”

The survey shows a healthy bear population in what has been declared one of the most at-risk regions — the western Hudson Bay. An aerial count revealed a population of 1,013, a number that is not significantly different than a landmark 2004 study that counted 935 bears. However, the 2004 study had predicted the polar bear population would fall to 610 bears by 2011. That means the real number is 66 per cent higher than the predicted number.

As the Hudson Bay area is considered to be a bellwether region for all polar bear populations, it appears that this particular climate change canary is feeling just fine.

Naturally, the conclusions have been refuted by some scientists, but this report does substantiate a 2007 federal government study showing increasing numbers of polar bears in northern Quebec, Labrador and southern Baffin Island. Counts there jumped from 800 in the mid-1980s to about 2,100 in 2007.

A 2011 study by the Polar Bear Specialist Group of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature also reported that there had been no significant change in polar bear populations since 2007. Even the Obama administration admitted in December 2010 that polar bears are not an endangered species.

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Province Wants Ottawa to Act on Proposed Russian Seal Ban

The Canadian Press - Posted: Dec 24, 2011

The Newfoundland and Labrador government says there will be huge implications for the province's embattled sealing industry if Russia follows through on a plan to impose trade restrictions on importing harp seal pelts.

The provincial government issued a statement Friday saying the Canadian government should consider challenging Russia's proposal through the World Trade Organization.

About 90 per cent of Canadian harp seal pelts — most of which come from Newfoundland and Labrador — are typically shipped to Russia, sometimes via Norway, the federal Fisheries Department says.

Earlier this week, the federal government confirmed trade restrictions on raw and tanned harp seal pelts could be in place as early as Jan. 1 in Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

The federal Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade appeared to be caught off guard Tuesday when the International Fund for Animal Welfare announced that it had obtained documents from the WTO showing Russia was imposing trade restrictions on harp seal pelts.

On Thursday, International Trade Minister Ed Fast issued a statement saying he had instructed his officials to express Canada's concerns to their international counterparts, and to look for ways to make sure the industry continued to have access to the three markets.

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Russia Banning Seal Products Says IFAW

The Canadian Press - Posted: Dec 20, 2011

Animal welfare activists say Canada's embattled commercial sealing industry is threatened with imminent extinction because it is losing access to its largest market: the Russian Federation.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said it has obtained a document from the World Trade Organization (WTO) that shows the federation has banned imports of all harp seal pelts.

"We were pretty excited to find the document," said Sheryl Fink, director of IFAW's anti-seal hunt program.

"We've got confirmation from our Russian office that this is in fact a trade ban. We're curious to see how the government of Canada is going to respond to this. It should have a huge impact on the Canadian sealing industry."

Fink said the ban represents a major victory in the IFAW's 40-year campaign to persuade people that Canada's seal hunt is inhumane and unnecessary.

Officials at the Russian Embassy in Ottawa did not return messages seeking comment. Canadian officials said they were aware of the document but could not confirm its authenticity.

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4 Issues Keeping Polar Bears in the Spotlight

By Janet Davison, CBC News - Posted: Apr 9, 2012

They are majestic mammals that draw attention for everything from their fate as a species in the face of climate change to their ability to draw a crowd at a zoo.

Polar bears have been making headlines for several reasons lately, including for disputes over just how threatened they are as a species. In Canada, home to 60 per cent of the world's 20,000 to 25,000 polar bears, they are considered a species of special concern whereas the U.S. has branded them a threatened species, which is one step closer to the most serious classification of endangered.

Here's a look at four issues that have arisen recently concerning the animal.

Where are humans encountering polar bears more frequently?

Newfoundland.

Polar bears aren't rare there, but they are tracking seals on pack ice that is particularly close to the northeastern Newfoundland shore this spring.

The unusual situation has prompted at least eight warnings about polar bears in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Officials have shot and killed two bears. One was shot after it stirred up trouble going from house to house in Goose Cove. Before that scavenging, the animal had wandered onto a farm where it killed a sheep, a lamb and two ducks.

Another bear was shot by the RCMP after it tried to make its way into a lighthouse on Puffin Island and then got to shore and into Greenspond.

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Hudson Bay Polar Bear Numbers Increase

Slight gain over 2004 numbers despite warnings of possible population decline due to climate change.

CBC News - Posted: Apr 4, 2012

A recent aerial survey of Western Hudson Bay polar bears shows the population has increased slightly to about 1,000 animals, according to the Government of Nunavut.

In 2004, a mark-recapture survey done near Churchill, Man., estimated the Western Hudson Bay population at 935 bears, down from 1194 in 1988. A 2006 study hypothesized that if the climate continued to warm, the polar bear population would decline.

The latest survey used planes and helicopters to cover ground from Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut, south to the Ontario border.

Drikus Gissing, director of wildlife with the Government of Nunavut, said the new numbers vindicate the Nunavut government's recent decision to increase the area’s bear hunting quota. He also said it’s a clear recognition of the value of Inuit Traditional Knowledge.

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Rex Murphy: On with the seal hunt!

Rex Murphy Jan 28, 2012

Pity the poor Newfoundlander: His province is now under siege by land and by sea.

I’ve written here before about the lumbering peril on the roads down in Newfoundland. Driving around the island can be something like a UFC fight between man and moose. Between the small second-hand car — a favourite mode of travel back home on The Rock — and the hairy mastodon (that would be the moose), there is no competition really.

On land, the moose are rampant. It is not safe to go out to the clothesline anymore, for fear of running into a moose or, more likely, a pack of the them — all antlers and dumb stares. Won’t be too long before they give up the woods and the boglands altogether as being too tangled or fetid for their delicate sensibilities, and start to put full roots down in the towns and villages.

It’s worse off-shore, except of course there’s none of us humans living in the ocean. But even if we wanted to — there’s no damn room. By some estimates, there are now 12- or 13-million rapacious seals slithering underwater all around the island — sucking up every piece of protein the sea has to offer, including of course the king of all food fish, the cod.

What, after all, is a seal? It is a set of the sharpest teeth entirely surrounded by hydrodynamic blubber — an eating machine.

I don’t think there has ever been this many seals off Newfoundland and Labrador, which ought to make some people ashamed of their eternal Save the Seals campaigns. These creatures were never in danger.

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Polar Bear Encounters on the Rise in Some Nunavut Communities

CBC News; Oct 22, 2011

5 Arctic nations to meet this week in Iqaluit for conservation talks

Daisy Arnaquq of Qikiqtarjuaq says she is used to seeing polar bears on the hour-long boat ride to her cabin near the community on the southeast coast of Baffin Island.

In the last five years, she and her family would encounter about one polar bear per summer and "they would just take off right away," she said.

But this year three different female bears with cubs paid them visits.

"The dogs would start barking, and we’d look out the window and see the mother with two cubs coming into our camp ... It's scary. You don't know what they are going to do — attack you, destroy your property."

She said bears are also showing up year-round in the community itself and the area where the sled dogs are kept, instead of just in the fall and early winter.

"That never used to happen," said Arnaquq.

Internationally, three people have been killed by polar bears in the last three months, including a British teenager on Norway’s Spitsbergen island, a 33-year-old man in the eastern Russia region of Chukotka and a technician working at a weather station in Russia’s Franz Josef Land.

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Record Fox Fur Prices Prompt N.W.T. Trapping Hopes

The Canadian Press; Sun Jan 22, 2012

YELLOWKNIFE — The Northwest Territories government is hoping record prices for fox fur pelts will encourage northern trappers to target the critters and keep a check on the burgeoning population.

The price doubled at a recent auction in North Bay, Ont., with cross fox pelts going for $100, more than triple the average price. White fox pelts went for $200 -- up from $40 in previous years.

Francois Rossouw, with the territory's Industry Department, said that kind of price for fox is unheard of.

"We really hope the prices will get people targeting foxes," Rossouw said. "Every community in the North has their own resident fox it seems. Instead of having problem wildlife, we would prefer to have them harvest the foxes humanely and pelt them up properly and put them into the market."

Fur has garnered above-average prices this year compared to years past, Rossouw said. Wild fox is particularly in demand from Chinese buyers.

China controls about 90 per cent of the market and has a large, growing middle-class that is starting to covet fur as a luxurious accessory, Rossouw said. Appetite for ranch fox has been growing and now that demand is spilling over into wild pelts.

Record prices might be enough to tempt trappers such as Fred Mandeville. The Hay River, N.W.T., man has been out on the traplines for more than 60 years. He said he's never gone after foxes before.

"We don't bother them," Mandeville said. "They get caught sometimes in the trap."

Trappers are more interested in catching lynx and marten -- pelts that can bring up to $1 million into the territory annually, he said. That could change if prices for fox pelts stay high, Mandeville suggested. There are plenty of foxes around -- especially closer to Yellowknife -- and there are fewer lynx.

Prices would have to stay pretty high to make it worthwhile for trappers because the business is getting more expensive, he added.

"The price of gas is so high. That's where the money goes most of the time. They use snow machines nowadays not like the old days...with dog teams. You didn't have to worry about anything."

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Nunavut Government to Build Sealskin Inventory

CBC News; Jan 22, 2012

Goal is to save money, make it easier to supply tanned skins to community groups

The Nunavut government wants to build its inventory of tanned sealskins, in order to make it cheaper and easier to supply skins to community groups.

The territorial government has contracted a southern supplier to tan and store the skins from Nunavut so that bulk orders can be made on short notice and at a set price.

Wayne Lynch, the government's fisheries and sealing director, said until now, the government would order skins as needed at whatever price was being offered.

"We get requests, of course, for skins for display purposes and loan them out. And so we just want to have a small inventory of skins that we can call upon for these events," he said.

Lynch said the government has also supplied bulk orders of tanned sealskins to Arctic College and community sewing groups. He said he hopes the new system will save the government money.

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Furlong | Death on the ice: Time to pull the plug on the seal hunt?

CBC News; Jan 21, 2012

The commercial seal industry is in major trouble, with collapsing markets and dwindling support

There's no question in my mind that the commercial seal hunt is probably on the way out. So does anyone care?

The value of the Newfoundland and Labrador seal hunt all last year was less than $1.5 million. One million dollars directly, with another $400,000 in food, fuel, ammunition and other related spinoffs.

That might sound like a lot of money, but a busy department store in Corner Brook or a popular gas bar on the Trans-Canada Highway would do that in a month. In fact, the Costco box store in St. John's took in $1 million in just one weekend before Christmas!

So what are we going to do about this vanishing commercial seal hunt? Despite our best efforts, despite the sealers' struggle to make the industry the most humane and dignified possible, the war has been lost.

We have promoted the cultural significance, assessed and changed the way seals are killed, and we have advertised the benefits of both seals and the hunt.

We couldn't overcome the massive public opinion juggernaut unleashed by animal rights groups. They have painted the seal hunt as cruel, barbaric, inhumane, economically feeble, and unsustainable. The world listened, and it's unlikely we can ever recover from the damage of the bad press and misinformation.

Should we not talk about that? Is it wrong to even suggest that it might be time to examine the future of the seal hunt and the contribution it makes to the Newfoundland economy?

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Canada's Military Reverts to Real Fur Hats

OTTAWA, Oct. 5 (UPI)

Canada's military is reverting to issuing real fur winter hats to soldiers, replacing synthetic tuques for winter use, the Department of Defense announced.

An initial order for 1,000 of the new "Yukon" hats with muskrat fur has been placed at a cost of $65,000, the Globe and Mail reported.

As late as the 1990s, female soldiers were issued winter hats made from mink and the ceremonial guard in Ottawa still wear the tall bearskin hats known as a "busby" by their British counterparts in London.

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Polar Bear Gets 'Species of Special Concern' Status

The Canadian Press
Posted: Nov 10, 2011

The polar bear's new status is one level below threatened and two levels below endangered under the Species at Risk Act.

The majestic but vulnerable polar bear has been formally declared a "species of special concern," further driving a wedge between southern Canadians and many resource-dependant northerners.

"Species of concern" is one level below threatened and two levels below endangered under Canada's Species at Risk Act.

The listing under the act requires a comprehensive management plan within three years, feeding some northerners' fears that the already-limited bear hunt will be further restricted.

"Canada is home to two-thirds of the world's polar bear population and we have a unique conservation responsibility to effectively care for them," said Environment Minister Peter Kent. "Our government is demonstrating leadership in protecting this iconic species.

"Listing the polar bear under the Species at Risk Act represents an important contribution to protecting our environment and the animals that live in it."

Scientists generally agree that polar bear populations have been increasingly threatened as global warming shrinks the Arctic icepack, effectively restricting their normal offshore hunting range.

Environment Canada consulted with provincial and territorial governments, regional wildlife management boards, aboriginals and other stakeholders before making Thursday's declaration.

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Ashley MacIsaac Takes on Animal Rights Activists

Anne McIllroy
From Monday's Globe and Mail - Sunday, Nov. 06, 2011

Over the years, celebrities like Paul McCartney, Pamela Anderson and Martin Sheen have protested the Canadian seal hunt. But sealers are now enjoying the rare thrill of having someone famous rally to their cause.

Fiddler Ashley MacIsaac challenged animal rights activists in Windsor, Ont., on Friday and declared his support for the seal hunt. He was sporting a fur coat and a pink hand-lettered sign, and said many people don't understand what it is like to make a living on the ice.

The Canadian Sealers Association said his brief, one-man counter protest was a boost, and likened it to when former Governor-General Michaëlle Jean bit into a bloody hunk of raw seal heart on a trip to the North in 2009.

"It is a welcome sight to see someone recognize how we earn our living and are not afraid to say so. It is part of our history and part of our culture," Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the association, said in an interview from St. John's on Sunday.

"In Newfoundland and Labrador, we have been harvesting seals for 500 years, along with the cod. It is the reason we have settlements here in the first place."

Mr. MacIsaac is from Cape Breton, but now lives in Windsor.

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Feds to Put Polar Bears on At-Risk List

By: CTV News.ca Staff
Date: Wednesday Jul. 13, 2011 1:12 PM PT

The federal government is set to list polar bears under Canada's species-at-risk legislation.

On July 2, Ottawa gave notice of the proposal to list the polar bear "as a species of special concern under the Species At Risk Act."

The proposal is undergoing a 30-day public comment period.

A decision is anticipated to be made in November.

In an e-mail from Environment Canada's spokesperson Mark Johnson, the ministry told CTV.ca on Wednesday that a "careful analysis of comments received" after the 30-day weigh-in period will be conducted before a final decision is made.

Presently, polar bears are not listed as endangered under the Species At Risk Act (SARA).

If the iconic mammal becomes listed as a "species of concern", a plan would have to be enacted within the next three years in order to prevent the bear from becoming threatened.

The proposed listing comes almost three years after the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada suggested the bear be listed under SARA because of the likelihood the bear's habitat will become threatened due to climate change.

The committee, which advises the government on threats facing animals across the country, said in its 2008 report that "although there is uncertainty over the overall impact of climate change on the species' distribution and numbers, considerable concern exists over the future of this species in Canada."

Not everyone, however, agrees with the committee's assessment.

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High Prices Leave The Polar Bear Population At Risk

MACLEANS.CA
Nicholas Kohler, May 25, 2011

In Search Of Big Profits, Hunters In Quebec Are Tracking Down Polar Bears At An Unsustainable Rate

Earlier this year, word began spreading among the Inuit families of the Belcher Islands, a treeless archipelago of rock and snow in Hudson Bay, that their cousins across the sea ice in Quebec had shot many dozens of polar bears this winter. For some in Nunavut, the rumour rankled. Hunters there must follow strict quotas governing the number of polar bears each community can harvest. Their cousins in northern Quebec, meanwhile, don't.

At a time when polar bear hides are fetching between $5,000 and $11,000 at auction—double the price of just a couple of years ago—it was the kind of gossip that could only excite envy. "That means more income for them," says Lucassie Arragutainaq, manager of a local Nunavut hunters and trappers association. A polite, cautious man who likes to stress the high cost of gas and ammunition in the north, Arragutainaq couldn't say whether the number of polar bear kills in Quebec was as high as he'd heard: "It may be," he allowed, "but I could be wrong."

Actually, the number was even higher than initially reported. Hunters from the community of Inukjuak, Que., shot as many as 60 polar bears this winter, perhaps more—the official numbers aren't yet released—all of them likely from a population centred in southern Hudson Bay that's particularly at risk. The situation is this: high prices for polar bear skins on the world market is putting Canada's oldest industry—the fur trade—on a collision course with what's become the most potent symbol of global warming: the polar bear.

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HK takes over as world's fur trade hub

South China Morning Post
Lana Lam, Feb 27, 2011

A subtropical city of seven million as the world's fur hub? Surely not.

Yet, from a small start 30 years ago, when Hong Kong's furriers began selling people in China's remote northeast one of their first luxuries - fur coats - the city has, almost overnight, become the trade's capital.

Hong Kong now handles 70 per cent of the trade in raw furs and 80 per cent of the world's processed furs, according to a United States Department of Agriculture report.

Like a lot of the city's recent business successes, the mainland is the key to the story. Between 2000 and 2009 its fur imports more than doubled in value, from US$165 million to US$463 million. And in 2009 alone, its exports of fur products rose 47 per cent year on year, to US$1.3 billion. Domestic production has rocketed.

Just five years ago, Russia - a natural market for furs and with a population of more than 150 million - was still the biggest importer of mainland furs. Now Hong Kong has taken over.

Traders attending the Hong Kong International Fur and Fashion Fair in Wan Chai this weekend agreed with the US government report that the fur market had been reborn a decade ago thanks to the mainland.

But Tim Everest, spokesman for the show's organisers, the Hong Kong Fur Federation, said the city had always played a key part in the Chinese fur market.

"Back in the 1980s when China was just opening up, Hong Kong furriers already saw this opportunity. They suddenly gave these people in the northeast of China a way to show their wealth. It was almost the first real luxury to hit the store."

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Seal Product Trade to Benefit from Canada-China Negotiations

Ottawa, January 12, 2011 – Members of the Fur Institute of Canada and its Seals and Sealing Network applauded the Government of Canada today for negotiating a trade agreement with China to open new markets for Canadian seal products. The new agreement, initialed by Federal Fisheries and Oceans Minister Gail Shea, allows Canadian trade to China in seal meat and oil products on the condition that the products meet China's food quality standards for human consumption.

"We thank the Government of Canada for having the foresight to seek this agreement," said Rob Cahill, Executive Director of the Fur Institute of Canada. "Negotiation of quality standards for the harvesting and handling of seals provides an excellent opportunity to prove the value of the seal trade as a sustainable and responsible way of living."

The terms of the new agreement were reached between the Canadian Food Inspection Agency and China's Administration of Quality Supervision. It will allow the expansion of seal product exports to China beyond the fur markets to which Canadian industry already has access. The new agreement, which takes effect immediately, will provide new market opportunities beginning with the 2011 Canadian seal hunt.

Quick Facts on Seals and Sealing in Canada

  • The Northwest Atlantic Harp Seal population is abundant and well conserved, numbering 9.5 million animals – the highest level ever scientifically estimated. Since the 1970's, the population has multiplied by 4-5 times. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) lists harp seals as a species of "least concern".
  • Hunting methods required by licensed Canadian seal hunters are effective and conform to established practices of animal welfare. These methods were implemented in 2009 and are based on recommendations by the Independent Veterinarians' Working Group (IVWG 2005).
  • Seal meat and seal oil (rendered from fat), provide a sustainable source of protein and a superior source of Omega-3 essential fatty acids for human consumption. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency certifies production facilities, inspects products and issues export certificates.
  • Seal hides, or "pelts" are handled locally in Canada, where they are tanned into high-quality materials for both domestic use and export.

For further information, please contact:
Rob Cahill, Executive Director, Fur Institute of Canada
(613) 231-7099

The Seals and Sealing Network operates under the Fur Institute of Canada, a national non-profit organization promoting sustainable and wise use principles. The Seals and Sealing Network is committed to the conservation and respectful harvesting of the world's seal species through sound scientific management and internationally accepted sustainable use practices. It comprises government, Inuit, veterinarians, conservationists, health care practitioners and Industry representatives. For more information, please go to www.fur.ca or www.sealsandsealing.net.

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