Northern Gulf seal hunt opens with a fizzle

And so it begins…day one of the Canadian commercial seal hunt in the Northern Gulf of St Lawrence

The International Fund for Animal Welfare’s seal team is in Newfoundland, Canada to observe and document the commercial seal hunt.

Earlier this week, we’d learned that the Newfoundland government had just bailed out the sealing industry with a cash infusion of $3.6 million Canadian dollars.  But would it be enough to save a dying seal hunt whose profits have plummeted in recent years, and an industry that by all accounts appears to be on its last legs?

The bailout money means that processors can purchase 130,000 skins this year, and the influx of government cash has boosted the confidence of the sealing industry. As such, we weren’t sure what to expect this year. Would sealers rush out to fill the warehouses with stockpiles of seal pelts this year? 

Or would they, too, be looking for something better? 

As it turns out, only nine boats hailed out on opening day and we were able to locate three of them.  Startlingly, there were hardly any seals at all in the area, making it extremely slow going for the hunters. 

One seal pup was shot, hooked with a gaff, and skinned on the back of the boat.  Then perhaps a half an hour passed - maybe more - the boat searching in vain before another seal was to be found. I was struck by what a difficult way this is to earn money. With five men on each boat, so few seals in sight, and processors paying only $27 for a top-grade skin this year, it is difficult to imagine that any of these men will leave the hunt without losing money.

In an interview with a local radio station, I talked about Newfoundland and its people. They are among the kindest I’ve come across, and I do sympathize with the men who try and bring in a few extra dollars from sealing.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I don’t believe sealers are “barbarians” or any of the other words that get put in my mouth.  I like to believe we can come to resolution on the sealing issue without resorting to conflict or name calling. 

Sealing is an important part of Newfoundland’s history, but that doesn’t mean it needs to continue in this day and age. Products like fur simply aren’t necessary, the methods of killing seals in commercial seal hunts continue to raise serious animal welfare concerns, and market demand for seal products appears negligible.   

It’s time for the seal hunt to be relegated to the pages of history, instead of being kept on life support with continued infusions of Canadian taxpayer dollars.

Tens of millions of taxpayer dollars have been poured into the sealing industry over the last few decades, with very little to show for it. In fact, the landed value of the hunt is the lowest it’s been in recent memory.

The Newfoundland seal hunt has begun, and although it opened with somewhat of a fizzle we have many more days ahead of us, with the sealing area referred to as The Front set to open on April 12.

This year’s hunt will be a sign of how far the government’s bailout money will go, and whether it will be enough to revive this flagging industry.

IFAW supporters and all the voices raised in opposition to the seal hunt play an active role in all of this and in helping bring the commercial seal hunt to an end.

Please keep following our updates, share them, talk about them, and most importantly tell the Canadian government that it’s time to make the seal hunt history once and for all.


Comments: 13

6 years ago

I have signed many petitions against the seal hunt and as a Canadian, I am ashamed of my country. We no longer need animal furs to keep us warm. Before the 20th century and the invention of synthetics, fur coats for people living in the north may have been a necessity, but now we have waterproof synthetic jackets and pants which are better than any fur for cold weather. People are becoming more aware of animal rights and perhaps not buying so many fur coats as before, as it has just been said that Canada subsidises the industry. I imagine that the few people who are employed will find other jobs, or go on unemployment, so they will still be subsidises by the government, but for a better purpose.

6 years ago

seals are awesome! they should not be hunted cause there cute! but at the same time... kill them all!!!

6 years ago

Every year the same...
Every year this barbaric horror that makes people with with feelings, hearts and normal brains absolutely sick.
It will never be understandable for us why completely innocent and helpless baby seals are killed and in such brutal manner.
For a person called "Harper" we feel no respect - only disdain.

Thank you, Mrs. Fink and IFAW for your good work !!!
We are behind you.

Stella and friends rom Hamburg/ Germany where IFAW residents, too.

6 years ago

I understand the indigenous people's need for hunts such as this...for food, clothing, tools, etc. However, to slaughter any animal simply for a meager profit is not only inhumane, it's idiotic. Surely the manpower, efforts, time and cost could be better utilized.

6 years ago

Lovely post that shows real intelligence and understanding that sealing isn't wholly a black and white issue -- kudos to IFAW for working to end the cruelty and stop the hunt while steadfastly not villanizing people who are trying to make ends meet. But industries which depend on cruelty must be replaced with non-harmful industries. Then everybody wins. What's appalling is the Canadian government's continued support of the cruelty, a slap in the face to citizens of the world and Canadian taxpayers who want this awful practice to end.

6 years ago

The seal hunt MUST end!

6 years ago

Please keep up the good work - this cruelty has got to stop. How can those butchers look at their own reflection and sleep at night with murder on their conscience?

6 years ago

I cant believe the Canadiian Government actually supports this most awful industry. They would do well to abolish it & join the enlightened communities of the world. Instead they look like neanderthals ignorant of the impact this has on their reputation as a humane & responsible nation.

6 years ago

I did not expect Canada to be back this year. hopefully this will be their last..

6 years ago

Hi Sheryl- you done an amazing job over the last decade and I'm full of admiration for your patience.
But I hope you not going soft and forming a "bond" with the oppressor.
Even if ever, the sealhunt gets shut down - it takes only a stroke of the pen to open it up again if fashion or technical advantage find a reason to do so.
There is never an excuse for animal abuse.
kind regards Hetty Vink

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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