IFAW Hunt Watch 2009: First stage closes - nearly 20,000 seals killed

This post filed by the International Fund for Animal Welfare's U.K. communications officer, Clare Sterling.

The first stage of this year’s Canadian commercial seal hunt closed yesterday after sealers took just a little over two days to kill up to 20,000 seals - likely exceeding the quota for the Magdalen Islands area. Windy but clearer conditions allowed IFAW’s observation team to take to the skies again to continue documenting the annual slaughter off the east coast of Canada. Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) reported that 100 sealers were on the ice yesterday, and IFAW observers, along with photographers and videographers, witnessed dozens of sealers clubbing and skinning seals, before the DFO closed this section of the hunt.

IFAW was able to film and photograph sealing activity, which included a wounded, bleeding seal escaping into the water before a sealer could retrieve it. This seal would most likely have died a lingering death underwater. The Canadian government estimates that around five per cent of seals killed during the annual hunt are “struck and lost”, which would account for around 26,000 seals each year.

It is illegal to hunt whitecoat seals – newborn harp seals which have not yet started to shed their white fur. However, the IFAW team examined the frozen carcass of one whitecoat seal which had been killed but not skinned. They also saw older seal pups which had been killed but left intact on the ice without having their skins removed, providing further evidence of how wasteful this hunt is. Thousands more carcasses had been skinned then abandoned on the ice amid pools of blood.

There is no sealing taking place today, but the hunt, which this year has a total allowable catch (TAC) limit of 280,000 seals, continues. The second phase will open tomorrow morning off Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia. More than 1,400 seals are expected to be hunted in this area, both on land and from boats. The seal herds are currently close to shore, which suggests this part of the hunt could be over quickly. IFAW will again be out on the ice, bringing the cruelty of Canada’s commercial seal hunt to the world’s attention.

Please take action now to help end this cruel hunt once and for all.

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