March, 2012. Two white coat harp seal pups huddle together for warmth on the snowy ice floes of the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Their mothers have left them, and they lie alone, helpless. Suddenly a Canadian Coast Guard helicopter touches down. The pups are put in large sacs, dragged across the ice, and loaded into the helicopter, where they are taken to the Aquarium des Îles, in nearby Quebec. For over 25 years, in September when the aquarium must close, they have released its seals and other marine creatures back into the Gulf of St. Lawrence. But this year, a different fate awaits the two seal pups. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will not allow the seal pups to be released. Instead, they are to be killed, possibly by hakapik, clubbed to death by the humans they have grown to rely on for the past 6 months.
For 25 years, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has been quietly providing the Aquarium des Iles with wild harp seal pups for public display. But when word got out about Zak and Mika’s government-imposed death sentence, animal lovers around the world were outraged and a petition was launched – gathering nearly 140,000 signatures - asking Canadian Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Keith Ashfield to spare the lives of the seal pups and allow for their safe release.
IFAW’s Seal Team sprang into action, reaching out to the organizations working to try and save Zak and Mika, the Government, and the Aquarium. In the end, YOUR voice was heard, and we were thrilled to learn that the DFO has agreed to release these seal pups back to the wild, after taking necessary steps to ensure their survival.
While this story has a happy ending, IFAW’s work is not done and we still need your help. We need to make sure the story of Zak and Mika never happens again. We must ensure that other seals and marine mammals aren’t taken from the wild and sentenced to death. We will be working to change the policy that put Zak and Mika in this situation in the first place, and urge the DFO to cease the practice of capturing marine mammals to be placed in zoos and aquaria. DFO stopped the wild capture of whales for the aquaria industry following a 1999 recommendation, and we would like to see this policy extended to all marine mammals.