Sealers take aim at last surviving harp seal pups as Newfoundland seal hunt opens

Thursday, April 8, 2010
Newfoundland, Canada
After disastrous ice conditions in March caused many harp seal pups to perish prematurely, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) is now allowing open fire on the few seals that survived. Today, IFAW (The International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) is set to observe hunting activity off the coasts of Newfoundland.

Twenty-three sealing vessels from Newfoundland and Labrador have hailed out in search of concentrations of seal pups on whatever ice is still available.

“In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence we witnessed harp seal pups struggling to survive on beaches, some dead, other starving,” said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW. “It is an absolute tragedy that the few remaining survivors from this years disastrous ice conditions are now being killed off just one week later. These pups should be protected from commercial hunting and given a chance to survive.”

Only one sealing boat in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is known to have gone out in the last week. However, DFO officials are keeping quiet on the boat’s activities, refusing to report on how many seals have been killed by the crew thus far.

“As the Newfoundland hunt opens, we have no idea how many seals have been killed in the last week. So far,  the number of seals killed has been shrouded in secrecy” said Fink.
Compared to other years, sealing activity has been stunted this year, due to the scarcity of seal pups and a decreased demand for seal products. Markets for seal pelts appear to remain saturated with prices expected to remain around $15 per skin, down from $104 in 2006.  A commercial hunt for grey seals earlier this year failed to occur altogether.

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Sheryl Fink, (IFAW Canada)
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