Arctic Yearbook 2014 - Page 550

550 Arctic Yearbook 2014 Subsistence, Market or Relay Economy? As Ryan (1994) shows in his treatise on the emergence of the sealing economy in Newfoundland, the traditionality of the sealing economy is by and large built on commercial interests and driven by commercial factors. Yet, to dismiss the seal hunt as purely commercial, leaves out the subsistence elements described above making it rather difficult to distinguish clearly between immediate-return (subsistence) and delayed-return (market) economies (see Ingold 2011: 66; Barnard 2002: 7). In general, the sealers on board Steff & Tahn - the boat which this author joined to conduct field research – considered their hunt a subsistence seal hunt as it directly generates food as well as monetary income later on. This was particularly true in 2009 when the prices of seal products were extremely low (Sellheim 2014: 11, 12), making a larger hunt unfeasible. In that year therefore a few speedboats from the community of Woodstock engaged in the ‘landsmen hunt’ day-trips to the ice to hunt seals - generating direct supplies for the community while the pelts were sold to the market, thus turning the incentive to hunt seals to become subsistence, rather than market-based (Field notes April 2013). It needs mentioning that Greenlandic hunts are to a large extent essentially commercial, because a government-owned tannery processes and sells the same products as in Canada to the world’s markets (Government of Greenland 2012). But since Greenlanders are originally of Inuit descent, heritage protection is a common part of the discourse on seal hunting and they therefore fall under the so-called ‘Inuit exemption’ in the EU ban. As in the whaling debate and in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) where subsistence is equivalent to aboriginal, small-scale non-aboriginal hunts for community consumption is generally not considered a subsistence hunt irrespective of the same characteristics, i.e. sharing and community processing, of these products (see for instance Freeman 2001). Leaving the ethno-cultural considerations aside, an interesting picture emerges as the economic circumstances on the market for seal products drive the degree of subsistence activities in Woodstock: with a declining market for commercial seal products, the landsman hunts gain importance and the consumption of seal products stemming from hunts conducted primarily for community consumption increases with fewer products being sold commercially. It is therefore difficult to draw a clear-cut line between commercial and subsistence drivers of the seal hunt in Woodstock as the incentives to engage in the hunt are mixed. Yet, while the industry itself is framed predominantly by commercial characteristics, changes in the markets shape the degree to which subsistence-based seal hunts are conducted. This type of economy can be termed “relay economy”, describing the increase of subsistence usage of a given resource by the same users that engage in its commercial utilization. It is thus that the driver of resource usage shifts with varying market conditions. Although sealers in Woodstock are part of the commercial sealing industry, one Woodstocker stated that “as long as we in Woodstock know how to hunt [seals] and fish, we won’t have any problems” (April 2013 Field notes), thus indicating a subsistence use in case of collapsing markets. Through a decline in the sealing industry as well as a declining fish industry in Newfoundland in combination with other factors, outmigration is a common concern for small coastal communities (Sellheim 2013b: 3, 4). The primary constant in the times of change is the notion of the ‘sea as the provider’ for communities like Woodstock. All life is based around the sea and Sellheim