Nova Scotia is missing the boat on the potentially lucrative development of a grey seal industry, some proponents said Tuesday.
Courtney, from Dingwall, Victoria County, made his comments as a cull of about 70,000 grey seals in the Gulf of St. Fisheries and Oceans Canada officials want the gulf herd culled by about 70,000 to contribute to the recovery of the cod fishery. Courtney said efforts to get a grey seal hunt started in the Hay Island area of northern Cape Breton have foundered. There are markets around the world for meat, fur and oil from the grey seal, he said, but efforts to access these markets have not gained traction in Nova Scotia for several reasons, so a harvest of the animals makes little sense. Good market prospects in China and Russia collapsed last year, along with hopes for a grey seal harvest in Hay Island area, Courtney said. The grey seal offers tremendous commercial potential, even if it is never developed to the scale of the harp seal industry, said Shannon Lewis, executive director of the Northeast Coast Sealers Co-operative, in Fleurs de Lys, N.L. He said there is potential market opportunities in the food and food-supplement (omega-3 fatty acids) industries and even in the field of medical esthetics (collagen injections).

Grey seals in the gulf breed and congregate in the waters off Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island, but Lewis said the development of this potential economic resource has not moved ahead despite different studies that identified benefits.
Lewis said it is a shame the federal government is talking about a cull without considering how markets for grey seal may be developed. A Cape Breton fishermen’s association says the seal population is out of control and that efforts to get a grey seal hunt started in northern Cape Breton have failed. Sable Island is a major breeding ground, but the herd around Hay Island, which is off the eastern coast of Cape Breton near Scatarie Island, is growing rapidly, said Courtney. Courtney said it is distressing that the implications of these fatalities on the area’s natural habitat and on other species was not fully investigated.

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