First section of Canada’s commercial seal hunt closes – over 17,200 seals killed in just over two days

Wednesday, 25 March, 2009
Charlottetown, PEI, Canada

Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) will close the first zone of the seal hunt today after the earliest group of sealers killed 17,200 harp seals thus far. DFO is set to re-open the hunt in another area of the Gulf this Friday.

Observers with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – have just returned after witnessing the slaughter of harp seal pups during this year’s commercial seal hunt.

“We witnessed today a classic example of the cruelty associated with this hunt. An injured, bleeding seal escaped into the water before a sealer could get to it. The sealer tried to pull the seal out by the hind flippers but it slipped underwater anyway,” said Cheryl Jacobson, hunt observer with IFAW. “This wounded seal will most likely die underwater and unbelievably, that kill won’t even be counted in the official catch number.”

“I’m confident we will gather enough footage to provide European policy makers with the cold hard facts about Canada’s commercial seal hunt – that it’s unacceptably cruel,” said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW. “Sealers rush to club as many seals as possible in a short period of time, combine this with slippery ice conditions and we quickly see animal welfare fall to the wayside in the blind pursuit of profit,” added Fink.

Canada’s commercial seal hunt comes just weeks before the EU considers banning the trade in seal products throughout its member states.

Recent economic evaluations have indicated that the market for seal fur is saturated, causing prices to drop by almost half. Processors report that sales of seal pelts all but stopped at the end of 2007, and in early 2009, still do not appear to have recovered.

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 280,000 seals.

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

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