09 April 2010

Newfoundland seal hunt targets struggling harp seal pup population

Twenty-three sealing vessels from Newfoundland and Labrador have set out to locate the few remaining pockets of surviving harp seal pups amid what Environment Canada calls the worst ice conditions in 41 years.

The disastrous ice conditions have been blamed for the death of thousands of harp seal pups this year but the Newfoundland harp seal hunt is underway regardless of the struggles the animals have faced this season.

"In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence we witnessed harp seal pups struggling to survive on beaches, some dead, other starving," explained Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). "It is an absolute tragedy that the few remaining survivors from this year's disastrous ice conditions are now being killed off just one week later. These pups should be protected from commercial hunting and given a chance to survive."

The only vessel to venture out last week in the Gulf of St. Lawrence apparently has been on stealth mode as IFAW is reporting the ship’s activities have not been revealed by Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO).

"As the Newfoundland hunt opens, we have no idea how many seals have been killed in the last week. So far, the number of seals killed has been shrouded in secrecy," stated Fink.

The Canadian federal government quota this year is set at 330,000 seals with 70-percent of that total reserved for the hunt off the coast of Newfoundland but falling prices—$15 per skin versus $104 per skin in 2006—and poor conditions have lowered the Canadian Sealing Associations estimates to approximately 50,000 to 70,000 slaughtered pups.

Hopefully soon that number becomes zero.

Photo Credit: cc: flickr.com/photos/yeimaya