IFAW asks: Who is paying for the seal pelts in Canada?

Thursday, April 22, 2010
Brussels, Belgium
In light of recent news that as many as 58,000 harp seal pups have been killed this year, the IFAW (The International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) is wondering where the funding is coming from to purchase so many pelts, given the dismal market outlook for seal products earlier in the season.

Last month, Canadian Sealers Association representative Frank Pinhorn stated that many seal skin processors had inventory going back several years. Last week, media reported that a sole buyer in Newfoundland, NuTan Furs, would purchase fewer than 15,000 skins this year.  The single boat that set out from the Magdalen Islands last month to hunt seals for meat admitted that it was forced to dump pelts overboard due to the lack of sealskin markets.

Yesterday, an article by the Canadian Press cites Mr. Pinhorn as saying that up to 72,000 seals are expected to be killed this year.

“Something smells fishy here” said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW. “Why is it that Quebec sealers are throwing pelts back into the water while Newfoundland sealers now have a buyer for 72,000 skins? It seems strange that NuTan is able to purchase sealskins at almost double last year’s price when other Newfoundland processors are unable to get rid of their stockpiled pelts. It also seems remarkable that the demand for seal pelts would skyrocket in less than a week” noted Fink.

The dramatically reduced ice coverage in eastern Canada this year is forcing the surviving pups to concentrate on small ice floes, making the defenceless, newly weaned pups particularly easy to kill.

“It doesn’t make sense. Both the inequality of market opportunities for sealers from different provinces, and the supposed rise in demand for sealskins in Newfoundland are unusual” said Fink. “Processors paid too much for skins in 2006 and as a result still have stockpiles today. It is possible that they are making the same mistake again this year, but it is perhaps more likely that funds are coming from other sources” Fink concluded.

This is the final commercial seal hunt to take place in Canada before the EU ban on seal products comes into effect on August 20th, 2010.

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Sheryl Fink (IFAW, Canada)
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Experts

Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Sheryl Fink, Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Wildlife Campaigns Director, IFAW Canada
Sonja Van Tichelen, Regional Director, European Union
Regional Director, European Union