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

Thursday, 8 April, 2010
(Newfoundland, Canada – 8 April, 2010) – After disastrous ice conditions last month caused many harp seal pups to perish prematurely, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans is now allowing hunting of the few seals that have survived.

Today, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is set to observe hunting activity off the coast of Newfoundland in the latest stage of this year’s Canadian commercial seal hunt.

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

Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW, said: “In the southern Gulf of St Lawrence we witnessed harp seal pups struggling to survive on beaches, some dead, others starving.

“It is an absolute tragedy that the few remaining survivors from this year’s disastrous ice conditions are now being killed off. 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 so 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 lack of seal pups and less demand for seal products. Markets for seal pelts appear to remain saturated with prices expected to remain around $15 CAD per skin, down from $104 CAD in 2006. A planned commercial hunt for grey seals earlier this year failed to take place.

This is the first Canadian commercial seal 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.

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