DFO Opens Commercial Seal Hunt Early, Removes Limited Protection for Mothers and Nursing Pups

DFO Opens Commercial Seal Hunt Early, Removes Limited Protection for Mothers and
Tuesday, 28 March, 2017
Ottawa, ON

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is disappointed that Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) will be opening the commercial seal hunt early this year, allowing sealers to hunt while harp seal pups are still nursing. Traditionally, the annual hunt off the coast of Newfoundland is closed until mid-April to allow mothers to give birth to their pups and nurse without disruption. This annual closure is one of the few protections in place for these ice dependent species.

According to media reports, the early opening of the hunt will only be for a select group of sealers, specifically to hunt male adult harp seals. However, it is virtually impossible to discern adult male harp seals from females at a distance and it is unclear how this condition will be enforced. Opening the annual slaughter before pups are weaned increases the risk that nursing females will be killed, leaving their pups to starve to death. Hunting during this time will also disrupt mating, potentially endangering the next generation of harp seals.

“DFO is revoking its own protections and caving to the demands of industry by allowing the commercial slaughter of seals during a period that is critical for nursing and reproduction.” said Sheryl Fink, Director of Canadian Wildlife Campaigns at IFAW. “ Hunting should not be allowed during the vulnerable birthing and nursing period. Climate change is already threatening harp seals, causing increased pup mortality and reduced reproductive rates. It is irresponsible to remove one of the only protections left for this species .”

IFAW is calling on the Government of Canada to reverse this decision and respect the protections that allow  harp seals to reproduce and nurse their young in peace.

About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com

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