Ending the Commercial Seal Hunt - CanadaIFAW was first founded to end the seal hunt
Washington, DC, April 5th, 2022 – The 2022 Canadian commercial seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland has officially been declared open beginning April 8th with an expected allowable catch of 400,000 harp seals for the season. Despite continued global outcry against the cruelty of the hunt and a massive decrease in the demand and social appetite for seal products, the hunt continues at a smaller scale thanks to support and subsidies from the Canadian government.
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) has led a campaign to end the commercial slaughter of seals since 1969. As the origin story of its founding, the organization remains deeply committed to working towards an end to the commercial hunt which some veterinarians have deemed “inherently inhumane.” While the scale and value of the commercial seal hunt has decreased dramatically over the years, the industry continues to receive financial and political support from the Canadian government. As markets for seal products have been in steep decline since 2006, it seems clear that the industry cannot survive on a commercial basis without ongoing government support geared towards the development and promotion of seal products.
Until recently, the inhumane slaughter and sheer size of Canada’s commercial seal hunt—the largest authorized slaughter of marine mammals anywhere on earth—brought it much criticism across the globe. Seal pups aged three weeks to three months of age are shot with a rifle or killed using a spiked club known as a hakapik. The 2022 commercial seal hunt opens against the backdrop of a declining social appetite for seal products, unpredictable ice conditions for seals to give birth and ongoing Covid-19 concerns. Approximately 26,000 seals were reported killed in 2021, with an average value of CAD$27 per seal representing a significant reduction from the CAD$102 per skin sealers received at the peak of the hunt in 2006.
Europe has been a major driving force behind the international pressure against the annual hunt, banning the importation of products from ‘whitecoat’ harp seals and blueback hooded seals in 1983. Ultimately, over one million newborn seals were saved from slaughter over the next decade.
In 2009, the European Union took a further step of restricting the placement of all seal products on the market, exempting those hunted by indigenous peoples. When challenged by Canada and Norway, the World Trade Organization (WTO) upheld the EU ban, the first dispute settlement on the basis of public moral concerns over animal welfare. There are now 36 international trade bans on seal products across the globe which include 27 Member States of the EU. Canada’s commercial hunt has decreased by over 90% since the European trade bans were first enacted.
According to IFAW Canada Campaigns Director Sheryl Fink, “Closing international markets, a lack of demand for seal products, changing climate conditions and perhaps even mistakes made by the sealing industry itself—all have played a part in bringing the commercial seal hunt to a fraction of its former magnitude. It is time to leave Canada’s commercial seal hunt where it belongs—in the past—and instead focus on supporting much needed alternatives in Atlantic Canada, such as funding the removal of ghost gear and marine debris from our ocean environment.”
To take action to end the Canadian seal hunt, click here.
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About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) – IFAW is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organizations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org.
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