Canadian government raises kill quota for harp seal pups despite severe lack of ice habitat

Tuesday, 16 March, 2010
(London – 16 March 2010) - Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has increased the total allowable catch (TAC) for harp seals in a year when the population is already challenged by a lethal habitat shortage.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says the increase is ridiculous and nonsensical, noting that such a high TAC is irrelevant given that few seal pups are expected to survive this year’s disastrous ice conditions.

“The Canadian government looks absurd calling for 330,000 seals to be slaughtered when there may not even be that many pups left alive,” said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW.

Harp seals require stable ice platforms to give birth and nurse their pups. This year’s ice conditions are the lowest on record, spelling imminent danger for the pups’ survival.

The market outlook for seal products also remains poor. The commercial hunt for grey seals last month failed to occur, reportedly due to an inability to locate a buyer for pelts. The 2009 hunt brought in a landed value of just over $1 million CDN. Pelts last year were only worth about $15 each and many sealers did not participate in the annual hunt. As a result, only a quarter of last year’s allowable catch was taken.

This year’s Canadian commercial seal hunt, expected to start in late March or early April, will be the first hunt to take place after the European Union voted to ban the trade in seal products throughout its member states last summer. The EU ban will officially become law later this year.

“There is no reasonable basis for increasing the allowable catch at this time, and given the scarcity of seal pups and lack of demand for seal products, it is almost certainly impossible to achieve,” said Fink.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, added: “Attempting to reach such a TAC will undoubtedly be dangerous, expensive, and present increased animal welfare concerns.”

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