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Produced and directed by Philip Desjardins
International Marine Mammal Association,
1993. VHS cassette, 53 min., $350.00
Distributed by Visual Education Centre,
75 Horner Avenue, Unit 1, Toronto, Ont. M8Z 4X5

Subject Headings:
Seals (Animals).

Grades 12 and up / Ages 17 and up

Reviewed by Christine Jacobs

Volume 22 Number 1
1994 January / February

There has been ongoing debate over the roll of seals in the depletion of the cod stocks. This video examins what is actually known about seal diet, population sizes and migration patterns, and recommends that no action be taken until much more data has been accumulated and analyzed. There is no way that the effects of removing one element (the seal) from the marine food web can be predicted.

The blame for the failure of the fisheries is placed squarely on the shoulders of poor government policies and wasteful over-fishing in the times of plenty. There are interviews with fishermen, conservationists, and marine scientists. The present plight of the fishermen is treated fairly sympathetically, but the point is made that many have a basic assumption that seals are competitors to be eliminated. Although the production goes to some pains to distance itself from the rather flamboyant and emotional campaigns run by the conservationists against the baby seal hunts, it does point out the illogicalities in present legislation.

Unfortunately, the video is too long and is somewhat poorly sequenced. The narration seems to drift occasionally into areas that, while interesting, are tangential to the main argument. For example, the link between the baby seal hunt campaigns and the problem of blaming seals for depletion of the cod stocks is obscure.

A more serious problem for younger viewers is that the narrator uses a great deal of irony and sarcasm to reinforce his points. An adult audience would have little problem discerning when he is saying what he means and when he is saying the opposite of what he means. Children are very literal, however, and most would find it confusing. Aside from this, sarcasm is scarcely a desirable trait to be encouraged in children, and a production that depends heavily on it for effect might be considered objectionable for that reason alone.

Recommended as an optional purchase for senior high school and up. The video raises important issues in terms of both conservation and the economy. However, it requires a long attention span and a fairly sophisticated grasp of language.

Christine Jacobs (Montreal, Que.) is a freelance indexer who for the past eight years has indexed films and videos for Film/Video Canadiana

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