International Fund for Animal Welfare

International Fund for Animal Welfare

April 02, 2007 14:43 ET

Canada's 2007 Commercial Seal Hunt Starts Today-Exclusive Video Footage From IFAW Now Available

Editors: Fact sheets, still images and broadcast quality video b-roll related to Canada's commercial seal hunt are available via

CHARLOTTETOWN, CANADA--(CCNMatthews - April 2, 2007) - Canada's annual commercial seal hunt opened today, with total limits set this year for 270,000 harp seals. Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has staggered the start dates this year, opening the hunt in the southern part of the Gulf of St. Lawrence today, while it has announced that the remainder of the gulf will be open for hunting from Wednesday, April 4, 2007. Conservationists worldwide, including experts with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare - have condemned the hunt as cruel and unnecessary.

Canada has allowed over one million seals to be killed in the past three years. With this year's commercial total allowable catch limit set at 270,000 seals, this becomes the fourth consecutive year in which the government allocation has exceeded the amount of seals that can be removed without causing the population to decline. Last year, the government set the limit at 335,000 seals, while the total number of seals actually killed was more than 354,000, based on official government figures.

"This is an unacceptably cruel and unnecessary hunt," said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW, who is in Charlottetown, PEI to observe this year's hunt. "In past years, we have witnessed unimaginable levels of animal cruelty while observing it, and I expect this year will be no exception."

This large-scale commercial hunt targets seal pups. Statistics provided by Canadian government scientists show that of the 354,000 seals killed last year, 98% were less than three months old. Fishermen are allowed to kill pups as soon as they begin to molt their white coats, often these seals are as young as twelve days old.

This year's hunt start date has been delayed due to an uncommon lack of ice and seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. IFAW surveillance flights over the past two weeks have confirmed reports of widespread ice break-up and small, scattered groups of seals. However, these conditions will not hinder the sealing industry's attempt to reach their allotted 270,000 animal quota.

"With the considerable lack of ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year, it is likely that we will see lots of seals shot by fishermen in open water," added Fink. "Tragically, those that are not killed outright often slip away in the water and experience a slow, lingering death. Given these conditions, we expect tens of thousands of seals will suffer and die in this manner."

Throughout the past year, Canada has received sharp international criticism for its annual commercial seal hunt, which is seen by many to be cruel and unnecessary. Several nations have taken action to stop the trade of seal products in Europe. In January, Belgium became the first EU nation to pass a national ban followed by Germany's announcement to institute its own ban. IFAW continues to urge other governments as well as the European Parliament to close down markets for seal products.

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

Note to Editors:

- IFAW has a team of professional video cameramen and photographers ready to document the hunt. Images will be fed out via as they are obtained.

- Gulf of St. Lawrence (south) hunt starts Monday, April 2. Gulf of St. Lawrence (north) hunt starts Wednesday, April 4. A start date for the northern coast of Newfoundland has not yet been announced by government officials.

- Visit frequently for updated broadcast quality video and still images of the 2007 commercial seal hunt.

- An APTN satellite feed of broadcast quality video b-roll will also be fed out once material is available - further details are available via World Television, London. Please call Caroline Jackson on tel: 44 (0)20 7388 8555.

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