Canadian government raises kill quota for harp seal pups despite severe lack of ice habitat

Monday, 15 March, 2010
Guelph, Canada
Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has increased the total allowable catch (TAC) for harp seals in a year when the population is already challenged by a lethal habitat shortage. IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – says the increase is ridiculous and nonsensical, noting that such a high TAC is irrelevant given that few seal pups are expected to survive this year’s disastrous ice conditions.

“The Canadian government looks absurd calling for 330,000 seals to be slaughtered when there may not even be that many pups left alive,” said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW.

Harp seals require stable ice platforms to give birth and nurse their pups. This year’s ice conditions are the lowest on record, spelling imminent danger for the pups’ survival.

The market outlook for seal products also remains poor. The commercial hunt for grey seals last month failed to occur, reportedly due to an inability to locate a buyer for pelts. The 2009 hunt brought in a landed value of just over $1 million CDN. Pelts last year were only worth about $15 each and many sealers did not participate in the annual hunt. As a result, only a quarter of last year’s allowable catch was taken.

“There is no reasonable basis for increasing the allowable catch at this time, and given the scarcity of seal pups and lack of demand for seal products, it is almost certainly impossible to achieve,” said Fink.

“Attempting to reach such a TAC will undoubtedly be dangerous, expensive, and present increased animal welfare concerns.  Today’s announcement demonstrates just how out of touch with reality our seal meat canapé-nibbling politicians truly are” concluded Fink.

This year’s Canadian commercial seal hunt will be the first hunt to take place after the European Union voted to ban the trade in seal products throughout its member states last summer. The EU ban will officially become law later this year.

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Rikkert Reijnen, Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Program Director, Wildlife Crime
Sheryl Fink, Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations