IFAW observers witness hunting activity on opening day of Canada’s commercial seal hunt

Monday, 2 April, 2007
Charlottetown, PEI, Canada
Observers with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) have just returned from the region around the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada after witnessing the first slaughter of harp seal pups during this year’s commercial seal hunt.
The team traveled by plane and helicopter and observed a single sealing vessel as it began hunting seals on the opening day of the Gulf hunt. As expected, sealers were shooting at seals on small ice pans from their boat. “What we saw today was the cruelty of shooting seals in open water,” said Sheryl Fink, observer and senior researcher with IFAW. “A recent veterinary panel recommended banning the practice of shooting seals in open water, and today we saw why.”

 “We saw a lot of long-distance shooting – sealers firing at seals on slushy, moving ice. Seals were seen in agony after being shot at and injured, but not instantly killed. One seal was hauled alive onto the deck of the boat with a steel hook before finally being beaten to death.”

“We had been told by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans that there would be no hunting in the Southern Gulf today, so I was shocked when we learned that there was sealing activity going on. There are so few pups left, and here the sealers were wiping out the last few survivors,” added Fink.

As earlier reports indicate, there has been a significant lack of ice in and around the southern part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year. In normal years, it is common to find a large concentration of seal pups in a single location, however this year is the exception. “The sealing vessel we observed this morning had to search out small pans of ice to find a few lone seals.”

This hunt for harp seal pups is the largest hunt for a marine mammal in the world, with this year’s commercial total allowable catch limit set at an unsustainable 270,000 seals.

To learn more about IFAW’s efforts to end the Canadian commercial seal hunt, visit www.stopthesealhunt.org today.

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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