Sealing for a Living

“Opponents of fur are sometimes misinformed. They don’t see the other side of the story. Sometimes I feel angry at the way it has affected us. My husband has been a hunter. He has provided my connection to the seal. Our lifestyle depends on it”.

– Monica Ell, Iqaluit, Nunavut

In recent generations, the Inuit way of life has undergone a vast transformation with semi-nomadic lifestyles replaced with permanent settlements, heated homes and food shipped in from southern Canada. Grocery stores offer a variety of foods, but this is only a partial, more costly substitute for the “country” foods that most Inuit enjoy. Seal continues to be one of the most valuable and preferred food sources.

The Inuit harvest of ringed seals in Nunavut is practiced on a small-scale and family-centered basis. The revenues from the production of meat, pelts for garments as well as arts and crafts contribute approximately one million, annually, to Nunavut’s economy. The cost to provide an alternate food source (typically “southern” groceries) and replace the economic benefits derived from the annual harvest is 5 times that amount.

The money generated from the sale of sealskins helps to finance the subsistence hunt, which has become increasingly more expensive due to higher capital and operating costs. Living in communities means there is often a need to travel greater distances to harvest seals.

Inuit will always hunt seals for food. The skins are used first in the home for kamiks (traditional boots), clothing and crafts. Any remaining skins may be traded.