IFAW: DFO ignores scientific advice, authorizes kill quota of 400,000 harp seals

A harp seal pup on the ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. © IFAW/S. Cook
Tuesday, 20 March, 2012

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says that by setting a Total Allowable Catch (TAC) of 400,000 harp seals, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) not only ignores the lack of market for seal products, but demonstrates a continued unwillingness to protect marine resources and live up to Canada’s international obligations for fisheries management. 

“By setting the TAC at 400,000 harp seals, Minister Ashfield is rejecting his own department’s scientific advice and throwing any pretense of a management plan out the window” said Sheryl Fink Director of IFAW’s Seal Program. “Sealers know that there is no market demand for this many dead seals.  Setting such a high quota is a slap in the face to Canadian government scientists and an insult to sealers.”

According to the DFO Management Plan  seal TACs are supposed to account for new information on the status of the population, changing environmental conditions, and changes in kill levels in the Arctic, Canada, and Greenland. 
Departmental scientists recently warned that the harp seal population is decreasing, the productivity of the herd is in sharp decline, poor ice conditions are increasing in frequency, and that the unregulated Greenland hunt will have a major impact on this population in the future.  A recent harp seal status report authored by DFO scientists notes that “the maximum harvest that would respect the management plan is 300,000 animals”. 

“In light of the conservation concerns expressed by scientists, and given the current market realities, it is difficult to comprehend how the Minister can legitimately justify setting such a high catch limit” continued Fink. “Canada is being heavily criticized for failing our international responsibilities when it comes to fisheries management.  Well, now the world can see that even where management plans are in place, they are simply ignored” said Fink 

The major markets for seal products are closed, and IFAW believes it is only a matter of time before the commercial seal hunt ends. The economic value f the Atlantic seal hunt has dropped dramatically in the last five years, with only 225 sealers taking part in the 2011hunt, which had a landed value of little more than $1 million (CAD).
Most recently, Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan joined the European Union, the United States and Mexico in implementing restrictions on seal products. 

“The commercial seal hunt is dying. The question now is whether the Government of Canada will do the right thing by helping sealers out of the industry, or will they continue to raise false hopes by setting high quotas and pretending that this industry has a future when it clearly it does not.”

IFAW is calling on the federal government to end the commercial seal hunt and to invest in alternatives for sealers and their communities, rather than continuing to waste taxpayer dollars to prop up a dying and economically unviable industry.

Sheryl Fink is available for media interviews. To arrange an interview or for more information on IFAW’s campaign to end the seal hunt, contact:

Michelle Cliffe
Global Communications Lead, Seals
IFAW Canada
647 986 IFAW (4329)

Twitter: @ifawcanada


 [1] https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/seal-phoque/reports-rapports/mgtplan-planges20112015/mgtplan-planges20112015-eng.htm#c3.7.1

[1] Hammill, M.O., G.B. Stenson, T. Doniol-Valcroize, A Mosnier.  2011. Northwest Atlantic Harp Seals Population Trends, 1952-2012. page 9. https://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/csas-sccs/Publications/ResDocs-DocRech/2011/2011_099-eng.html  

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Michelle Cliffe, Global Communications Lead, Seals
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647 986 IFAW (4329)
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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