Canada’s commercial seal hunt is one of the largest and most publicized threats to seals, but it isn’t the only challenge seals face. Around the world, IFAW battles to protect seals and our work, in Canada, Namibia, and Russia, is supported by scientists, governments and concerned individuals.
For example, ending the cruel seal hunt in White Sea was one of IFAW’s main goals when we began operating in Russia in 1994. After fifteen years of campaigning, in March of 2009, Russia banned hunters from killing seals less than one year old, saving more than 35,000 harp seals in the White Sea each year.
IFAW also rescues and rehabilitates seals entangled in fishing gear, stranded on beaches, or pups washed into the sea before they are old enough to survive.
Protecting grey seals in Canada
Grey seals have been regarded as a “nuisance” by fishermen for decades and until the 1950s they were slaughtered in large-scale culls sanctioned by the Canadian government.
In recent years, grey seal numbers have begun to recover, but this has revived the debate about the impact of grey seals on fish stocks and has led to renewed demands for their slaughter.
Currently the government of Canada sanctions the killing of grey seals, claiming that mass killings will benefit commercial fisheries. However, there is no scientific evidence to support these claims.
There is also a proposal to conduct a mass slaughter and incineration of grey seal pups and adults on Sable Island which would wipe out 70% of the estimated seal population.
Today we continue to monitor and oppose all plans to cull the grey seal population and are supporting scientific research into the movements and feeding patterns of grey seals .
Read more about IFAW’s work protecting grey seals in Canada
Cape fur seals in Namibia
Like many seals throughout history, the Cape fur seal is exploited for its luxurious pelt and other products. Between July and November, beaches in Namibia are host to a bloody scene as tens of thousands of Cape fur seals are slaughtered. The manner with which the hunt is conducted is not humane, and Namibian authorities do not routinely permit independent animal welfare experts to observe the hunt and review whether or not it is conducted humanely. Filming or photographing the hunt in Namibia is currently banned. Read more about the cruelty of the Namibia seal hunt in this scientific paper.
Commercial sealing began off southern Africa in the early 17th century, and by the late 1800’s 23 colonies had been destroyed and the seal population severely depleted. Although commercial seal hunting ended in South Africa in 1990, the slaughter of pups and adult males continues annually in Namibia, whose government claims seal hunting is necessary to create jobs and protect fisheries.
Since the 1980s, we have opposed the culling of Cape fur seals in South Africa and more recently Namibia’s annual slaughter. Not only is it inhumane but science does not support the argument that Cape fur seals negatively impact fisheries.
We are collaborating with national and international organizations working to end Namibia’s commercial seal hunt, and we will continue our efforts to stop the cruel and unnecessary Namibian seal slaughter until ends.
IFAW is also funding a research project on Cape fur seals in their breeding grounds near the city of Port Elizabeth in South Africa. The project aims to return pups swept away during summer storms, monitoring their subsequent survival, foraging behavior, diet and migration.