Science has been cancelled: Health of our oceans & harp seals sacrificed for east coast votes

There is a DFO letter making the rounds online, defending the 2012 harp seal Total Allowable Catch (TAC) which was set at an unsustainably high 400,000 last week.  The letter is signed by Morley Knight, Director-General of Resource Management at DFO, and attempts to mislead convince the public the TAC was set “in accordance with the internationally recognized precautionary approach.” 

It’s not surprising DFO has gone into repair mode in response to the bashlash to the news the Fisheries Minister had ignored the advice of his own scientists and had set the 2012 harp seal Total Allowable Catch at the request of sealing industry executives.  Both IFAW and HSI condemned the TAC.  My own letter, representing Atlantic Canadians, was published in four newspapers.

Nor is it surprising a government bureaucrat signed the editorial defending the TAC; it is highly unlikely any of the ignored scientists would agree to put their name on such a work of fiction.

Mr. Knight seems to be in denial of two concrete irrefutable facts: 

(1)  The Canadian Science Advisory Secretariat concluded in its most recent Science Advisory Report the harp seal herd is in decline and the 2012 TAC should not exceed 300,000, as anything higher would not respect DFO’s management plan; and

(2)  DFO clearly stated the 400,000 TAC was guided in part by “the unanimous recommendation of industry representatives.”

Setting TACs to appease the sealing industry while ignoring scientific advice is not “in accordance with the internationally recognized precautionary approach,” although Mr. Knight seems to expect the public to believe it is.

DFO has a long history of basing conservation decisions based on political expediency rather than science.  DFO mismanaged cod into commercial extinction and has consistently failed to protect endangered species such as porbeagle shark and sockeye salmon for “socio-economic” reasons. Now it is placing the future of harp seals at risk.

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