May 20, 2009

Otter Madness!!!

It's time to vent.

I can't believe that Fisheries and Oceans Canada has drafted a plan with the Nuu-chah-nulth Tribal Council to allow aboriginals the right to kill sea otters (a threatened species) -- in the name of "aboriginal spiritual rights". The Nuu-chah-nulth want to kill defenceless animals because the wearing of sea otter pelts "gives them tribal status" and they are claiming it as their "right" and "religious tradition".

Roger Dunlop, the regional fisheries biologist for the tribal council said, "Sea otters are very cute. There will potentially be some outcry at any harvest at all. But this is an aboriginal right and the harvests won't harm the population."

Dunlop also said, "The draft management plan would allow Nuu-chah-nulth hunters to annually shoot one per cent of the 2,000 otters found in the region."

Have you ever seen a sea otter in the wild? It will swim up beside your boat, roll over on its back and have a little clam snack. You could reach out and tickle its belly. The hunters will just have to lean over the side of their boats and shoot the otters as they float by.

"Hunters would target adult male otters and would receive training on the proper skinning of the animals."

So, the hunters need training on how to skin the animals? This says to me that the Nuu-chah-nulth have not been hunting sea otters for a while. In fact it has been over one hundred years. And now that the sea otter's status has changed from threatened to one of "special concern" it has become crucial to their religious tradition and spiritual rights?

I think the real reason for the proposed sea otter hunt is that it is "necessary to stop the burgeoning sea otter population from decimating sea urchin and shellfish stocks, which are a valuable source of food for First Nations communities and commercial fishermen." (Keith Atleo, a council member of the Ahousaht First Nation is quoted as saying this.) Ahh -- some truth here? Protecting a fishery?

You know, I don't have a problem with cultural and spiritual tradition. I just don't think that it needs to involve the sacrfifice of anyone -- human or animal. We no longer sacrifice children or animals on an alter before our gods or to seek the favour of our kings.

There are a lot of things we used to do "culturally" that we don't anymore because we've seen the harm these actions cause. We don't litter. We don't send our children to work in factories. We don't drink and drive. We still have a long way to go to correct what we humans have done in the name of "inherited right" and I just don't see how sanctioning an otter hunt would be to anyones' "cultural" benefit.

So why don't we say what this is really about. It's not about cultural identity or or spritual rights -- it's about the perception that a commercial industry is potentially threatened by a "burgeoning sea otter population". Don't coat it in an otter pelt and call it tradition. It's really just about the money.


drollgirl said...

if it is really about money, that is so typical and so pathetic. i love these little guys (the otters, that is!), and would hate to see them hurt. i do have a soft spot for natives/aboriginees that have been screwed for so long, but you make some very good points.

i am ready to go to sleep and wake up in a better world already. wah.

Lianne said...

I too feel that we as a community need to look after everyone in it and the native community has valid concerns. Money for education, social programmes, things that will make a difference -- I'm all for. And of course the community's abilitiy to be self-sufficient. But is it necessary to hunt sea otters to achieve this?