Seal Hunt Diaries: The Days Before

Seal_hunt_1 Several of my colleagues are currently in Canada monitoring the dismal ice conditions and awaiting the inevitable, gruesome seal hunt. Everything you could possibly want to know about the Canadian seal hunt is on WWW.STOPTHESEALHUNT.COM. The IFAW team on site now is feeding information onto this site, so check it out!

Internally, we have been receiving updates from Katie McConnell, IFAW’s Communications Officer. Since arriving on scene she has been keeping us abreast of the latest; ice conditions, transport, hunt start date, etc.

In these days leading up to the recently postponed seal hunt, the IFAW team has been witnessing the effects of global warming: minimal amounts of ice for seals to land and give birth. As the team awaits word of when the seal hunt will actually begin, the images of seals struggling to find solid ice are daunting. Not only is their survival threatened by the hunt itself, they are now facing another obstacle: global warming. 

Update#1: Just a quick update from Charlottetown. As of today, both the helicopter and the plane have landed safely. They were delayed yesterday due to inclement weather. Sheryl Fink (Canada office) and Jeff Beausang arrived today and Jeff helped to get the Hunt Watch office up and running. We will be having a meeting this evening to determine our plans for the next few days. Unfortunately, no new updates with regards to the hunt start date.


Seal_hunt_2 Update #2: News from Charlottetown: the plane and the helicopter took flight today to check on ice conditions and to look for seals. There is next to no ice and lots of open water around the Magdalene Islands today, however the helicopter crew spotted around 100 hooded seals -- some were mothers with bluebacks -- tucked in close to the western side of the Magdalene Islands. Flights to the northeast revealed a smaller than usual herd of harps that were widely dispersed. Only one whitecoat was spotted throughout the entire trip. Once again, no new news with regards to the hunt start date. The team will meet again tonight to go over conditions and webcam test footage. Spotting flights are scheduled again for tomorrow.

Update #3: The team headed out today east of Cape Breton to spot some seals. Conditions were similar to yesterday, poor ice and lots of open water. We did find some seals but we saw no more than 4 or 5 beaters, a few more ragged jackets and whitecoats (maybe 20) and adults maybe 30. We also saw a newborn hooded seal and a handful of other adult hooded seals. Stewart Cook captured still shots of whitecoats, ragged jackets and beaters struggling in the loose ice. The webcam also got some footage that can be used on the web -- more of the rolling slushy ice with stranded seals. Tomorrow the helicopter will be dispatched to gain more stills and footage. Still no new news on the hunt start date. Grrrrr.

Update #4: Here is a press release on the current conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Update #5: Yesterday the helicopter headed off to Cabot Strait near cape Breton. The team spotted around 30 whitecoats, no beaters, no adults and not much ice. Today, we're having a late start due to poor weather conditions/freezing rain, but flights are expected to take place this afternoon. The helicopter will return to the same general area to get more footage and the fixed wing will go to coordinates further east so that we are able to get a handle on how many seals are out there.

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