New scientific report indicates a recent lack of sea ice is dangerous for Canada’s harp seal population

Tuesday, February 20, 2007
Ottawa, Canada
A new scientific report released today by IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare - www.ifaw.org) reveals global warming is resulting in dramatically reduced ice coverage off the east coast of Canada. This environmental trend is negatively impacting the harp seal population which requires sea ice for pupping and nursing its young.
As the report indicates, in nine of the past 11 years, average ice coverage has deteriorated to well below the average ice cover seen over the last 37 years. A lack of suitable ice, combined with violent storms and early ice break-up disrupts the seals’ normal pupping season. Reduction in ice cover can result in increased pup mortality if there is no ice for mothers to give birth on or if the ice melts before the end of the nursing period.
 
The Canadian government has indicated that it is dedicated to taking ‘real action’ on global warming. “The real action required is a drastic reduction in the 2007 Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of harp seals,” said Dr. David Lavigne, IFAW Science Adviser and co-author of the report.
 
“This will demonstrate that the government has the political will to meet the challenges of global warming and make a positive contribution to marine mammal conservation,” he added.
 
For too long the Canadian government has refused to take a precautionary approach in its attempts to manage Canada’s commercial seal hunt. Since 1995 the TAC has increased while sea ice cover has decreased. The 2006 TAC was set at 335,000—85,000 higher than the ‘sustainable yield’ estimated by the Government’s own scientists.
 
“This sort of management decision defies logic and is not based on any modern conservation principles,” said Dr. Lavigne. “The imminent TAC announcement will reveal the true conservation credentials of this Government,” he added.
 
Over the past five years, more than 1.25 million seals have been hunted in Canada’s annual commercial hunt – making it the largest marine mammal hunt in the world. To learn more about IFAW’s effort to end the Canadian commercial seal hunt, visit www.ifaw.org today.

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