London - Amidst the global devastation wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic a silver lining has emerged for seal pups off the east coast of Canada as figures for the country’s annual commercial hunt have fallen dramatically, with some areas of the hunt closed completely.
According to preliminary figures on the website of the Department for Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), only 388 seals have been reported killed to date in this year’s hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador, which would usually run from mid-April to late May. In 2019, 32,071 harp seals were killed. While a significant number, even this was only 8% of the quota of 400,000, so 2020’s figures to date are an even greater reduction.
The seals are killed primarily for their pelts, for use in the fur and oil industries. They are struck using a traditional club called a hakapik, or shot from boats.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has campaigned for an end to Canada’s commercial seal hunt since the organisation was founded in 1969, on the grounds that the hunt is cruel, unnecessary and unsustainable. In addition, the impact of climate change on the seals’ ice breeding habitat has added further urgency to calls for the hunt to end.
Sheryl Fink, IFAW’s Campaigns Director, Canadian Wildlife, said: “This strong decline in the number of seals killed this season is significant, giving us confidence that an end to the commercial seal slaughter in Canada is imminent. We must however keep the pressure on and continue our collective and tireless work to end this cruel and unnecessary slaughter once and for all.
“We strongly urge the government of Canada to support activities in Atlantic Canada that benefit all marine wildlife, particularly the removal of lost and abandoned fishing gear and reducing marine plastic debris.”
While in the early 2000s sealers regularly killed around a third of a million seals a year, these figures dropped steeply after a successful campaign by IFAW and other groups for the European Union to introduce a ban on the trade in seal products, which was passed in 2009. With a much reduced market for the skins, many sealers stopped taking part in the hunt, but IFAW is commited to continue working on this issue until no seals are killed in Canada for commercial reasons.
Last year IFAW reported that the number of seals killed in the decade since the EU trade ban had dropped by 91%, saving over four million seals pups from a cruel and unnecessary death.
DFO officials confirmed that a commercial hunt of both grey and adult harp seals took place in Canada this year in the Gulf of St Lawrence, but due to the figures being extremely low, they are not being revealed for privacy reasons and are merely described as ‘minimal’. In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where the majority of the commercial sealing usually takes place, the commercial seal hunt is not currently open. As harp seals and their pups migrate northwards to Arctic feeding grounds, the likelihood of a significant commercial hunt in Newfoundland is now low.
For more information or to arrange interviews please contact Clare Sterling on mobile 07917 507717 or email email@example.com. Images are available on request.
Notes to Editors:
Link to latest DFO seal hunt data - http://www.nfl.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/publications/reports_rapports/Land_All_Vessels_Debarquer_Tous_Les_Navires_2020_eng.htm
About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) - The International Fund for Animal Welfare 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 organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org