IFAW - Canada’s Sealhunt: Is it worth it?

Monday, April 11, 2011
Newfoundland, Canada
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW www.ifaw.org) is off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador documenting the commercial seal hunt, and with only scattered numbers of seals being found, only 27 sealing boats heading out and global lack of demand for seal products, the animal welfare group questions why millions of tax dollars are being wasted on an industry that all signals indicate has no future.

“It is day one of the commercial seal hunt on The Front and only 27 boats have gone out and sealers are being quoted in the news saying it’s not feasible to hunt seals.” said Sheryl Fink, Director of IFAW’s Seal Program, “If hunting seals is a market-driven industry as many people claim, then why isn’t the Canadian government listening to what the market is saying and why are millions of tax dollars being poured into it?”

“The hunt in the Gulf of St Lawrence was a total failure this year. Lack of ice meant there were no seals and only 1% of the quota was killed. The hunt on The Front is shaping up to be similar. Most sealers are making the economically viable choice and fishing for crab instead of participating in a cruel seal hunt that is worth less and less each year.”

“Even those who ignore the cruelty involved in the commercial seal hunt cannot ignore the numbers. Even the sealers are saying hunting seals is not viable” added Fink.

The landed value of the hunt was just over $1 million in 2010, yet an estimated $2.3 million was spent to support it. This year there is also a proposal to cut $84.7 million dollars to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, which IFAW says doesn’t add up if the government is still pouring money into supporting the commercial sealing industry.

“This cruel hunt just isn’t worth it. Not from an animal welfare perspective, not from the perspective of the sealers and not from an economic perspective for Canadians,” said Fink, “Seals and sealers need protection and they are not getting it. With its current approach, the government is failing. It is time that the Canadian government stood up, did the right thing, ended the seal hunt and transitioned sealers into stable and secure alternatives” said Fink.

The Numbers*

Number of commercial sealing licenses 6,000
Number of sealers who participated in 2010 commercial seal hunt 390
Number of companies who process seals 4
Landed value of seal pelts in 2010 $1.2 million
Landed value of “other” products including meat and oil in 2010 $60,000
Export value of seal products in 2010 $2.1 million
Annual cost for Department of Fisheries and Oceans to monitor the hunt** $1 million
Cost to fight the EU ban on seal products at the WTO*** $10 million
Cost to tourism, other trade areas and Canada’s reputation Unknown, but likely significant

*Unless otherwise indicated, source is Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ 2011-2015 Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for Atlantic Seals
**Estimate based on information received through Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP).
***Estimate based on McCarthy Tétrault trade lawyer Simon Potter, published in the Globe and Mail, 28 July 2009.

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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