The seal harvest has a deep history and cultural importance, particularly to Canada’s indigenous peoples and rural, coastal communities. Ensuring that those who have traditionally hunted—who are intimately connected with the land and in tune with the species on it—maintain their access to these resources benefits more than the hunters.
Experienced hunters respect the environment; they know that environmental degradation affects all those who live on it. They will be the first to identify changing habits or conditions. If the lines of communication between hunters, researchers, and government are open, issues may be dealt with before irreparable damage is done. Monitoring seals and seal populations, both through formal studies and informal observation, may provide general information about ecosystem health and environmental changes.
Trained seal harvesters can also watch for poachers, inhumane practices, and signs of pollution. Those who make their living in the marine environment have irreplaceable traditional knowledge that, if listened to, can make a difference for generations to come.
“Our aim is to preserve the best of the old as we adopt the best of the new. ... The surest guarantee of long-term environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic is to have Inuit on the land, hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering—taking care of our homeland.”
—Aqqaluk Lynge, Inuit Circumpolar Conference president