IFAW: Canada’s commercial seal hunt is a cruel, unnecessary waste

IFAW: Canada’s commercial seal hunt is a cruel, unnecessary waste
Wednesday, 8 April, 2015
Toronto, ON

It was announced today that Canada’s commercial seal hunt will open once again on the East Coast on Sunday, April 12. Despite receiving tens of millions in public funds and support over four decades, the commercial seal hunt is at one of the lowest points in history. This morning, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced an additional $2 million bailout loan for the beleaguered sealing industry, making this the fourth year in a row that the industry has required a loan.

For the last twenty years, government, industry and lobby groups have attempted to develop additional uses for seals, everything from fuel to pepperoni, and they have failed. Canadian government data indicates that – despite a policy of “full utilization” – over 90% of the seal is discarded and the commercial seal hunt is still primarily for fur. Despite the use of tens of millions of dollars in public funds, the commercial seal hunt has been declining since 2006.

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) is calling on the Government of Canada to stop the waste of tax dollars and to stop the waste of life. IFAW is asking the government to stop providing the commercial sealing industry with taxpayer-funded subsidies and to bring the commercial seal hunt in line with other hunts for wildlife and make it mandatory for the entire animal to be landed.

Quotes from Sheryl Fink, Director of Canadian Wildlife Campaigns:

“Canada’s commercial seal hunt is a horrific waste that has no place in modern society. When seals from the commercial seal hunt are killed, they are not eaten and the whole animal is not used. Over 90% of seals killed are for fur – they are skinned and their bodies are thrown back in to the ocean or left to rot on the ice.”

“Twenty years ago Canada’s commercial seal hunt was nearly dead. But, after the collapse of the cod fishery, the Canadian government attempted to deflect attention from the controversy by providing subsidies to the industry. In the two decades since, the commercial sealing industry has received tens of millions in public money that have failed to create an economically viable industry.”

“The commercial seal hunt has been declining since 2006, and data from the 2014 hunt indicate that it is at one of the lowest points in history. People do not want seal products, and there are 35 countries around the world that now ban them. The commercial seal hunt is unnecessary, and it’s time to transition sealers out of it.”

Key Facts:

  • The Canadian government has set the 2015 quota at 400,000 harp seals, 60,000 grey seals and 8,200 hooded seals.
  • Sealing is part-time, seasonal activity that is done only for a few days or weeks of each year. The small portion of a sealer’s income that sealing provides could be compensated for through a licence buyout or other means.
  • Global opposition to the commercial seal hunt is high and growing. There are 34 countries which now ban the trade in seal products, including Armenia, the 28 Member States of the EU, Russia (which reportedly represented approximately 90% of the export market for seal fur) Kazakhstan, Belarus, Mexico, and the USA  - Canada’s closest trading partner.
  • An agreement between Canada and China to allow edible seal products to be exported to China has not been ratified, and there are reports of China considering banning seal products as well.
  • The commercial seal hunt has cost Canadian taxpayers more to support than it brings in. By stopping the commercial seal hunt the Government of Canada would save at least $7 million per year.
  • The cost of Canada’s WTO challenge of the EU’s restrictions on the sale of seal products has been estimated at $10 million of Canadian taxpayer dollars.
  • The number of sealers actively involved in the hunt has declined as they turn to other sources of income. In 2006 approximately 5,594 sealers took part in the hunt, in 2008 only 2,964 sealers took part, and in 2014 only 393 sealers took part.
  • The value of seal pelts has dropped dramatically, from a value of $105 in 2006, $31 in 2008 to just $27 in 2014.
  • The number of companies actively involved in the sealing industry has declined dramatically, from approximately 14 in the 90s to only one tannery actively participating, Carino Inc, in 2014.
  • In 2012, Canada and Norway launched a challenge of the EU restrictions on the sale of seal products at the World Trade Organization. IFAW assisted the European Commission with its case in defense of the restrictions.
  • In 2014, the World Trade Organization ruled that the European Union’s restrictions on the sale of seal products were, in principle, acceptable under international trade rules.
  • Canada’s commercial seal hunt and Inuit sealing are very different. They involve different people, different species of seal and occur in different regions of the country. Inuit seal hunting is primarily for meat, commercial sealing is for fur.
  • IFAW does not oppose seal hunting by aboriginal peoples for subsistence use. Nor does IFAW oppose the Atlantic Canadian “personal use” hunt, which allows fishermen to kill up to 6 seals for non-commercial use.

About IFAW

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) was established in 1969 and its founding campaign was in opposition to Canada’s commercial seal hunt. IFAW has more than 40 years of experience raising awareness, documenting and opposing the cruel commercial hunts for seals in Canada and around the world.

For more information on the campaign visit  www.ifaw.org and follow us on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.

Post a comment

Press Contact

Michelle Cliffe (IFAW CA)
Contact phone:
+1 647 986 4329
Contact email:


Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Sheryl Fink, Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations