Fisheries and Oceans Canada

Fisheries and Oceans Canada

March 29, 2007 09:01 ET

Fisheries and Oceans Canada: Minister Hearn Announces 2007 Management Measures for Atlantic Seal Hunt

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - March 29, 2007) - The Honourable Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), today announced the total allowable catch (TAC) and other management measures for the 2007 Atlantic seal hunt.

"These decisions are guided by principles of conservation. I also want to ensure that the people who depend on this resource for their livelihood will benefit from it over the long-term," said Minister Hearn. "This year's decision takes into account the poor ice conditions we've seen in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence."

The 2007 harp seal TAC will be set at 270,000. The one-year TAC of 270,000 includes allocations of 2,000 seals for personal use, 4,860 seals for Aboriginal initiatives and a carry forward of 19,000 seals for fleets on the Front. Once the carry forward is deducted, existing sharing arrangements remain in place, with the Front receiving about 70% of the TAC and the Gulf about 30%.

Although ice conditions have deteriorated in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence this spring, conditions remain good where the majority of seals are located, which is in the Northern Gulf and on the Front, off the northeast coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. DFO has been monitoring the situation very closely in the Southern Gulf this year.

Last year's seal hunt was closed because quotas were overrun in the Gulf. When this happened, sealers on the Front had seals remaining in their TAC. This year's TAC addresses this issue.

To ensure similar situations are not repeated in future hunts, Minister Hearn also announced tough new measures to reduce the possibility of quota overruns.

Fleets that overrun their quota will see their allocations reduced by the same number of seals in their overrun on a one for one basis the following year. Also, shorter and more controlled opening periods will provide for more accurate reporting from sealers. All these measures will work together to ensure participants in the hunt only take their allocation, while minimizing the impact of overruns on the seal population in any given year by ensuring that it is balanced out by a reduction in quota the following year.

To ensure DFO makes future decisions on the most updated scientific information, Minister Hearn has directed his department to accelerate the next harp seal population survey. The next survey will take place next year, instead of 2009.

"Reducing the time between surveys will enhance our ability to assess the impact of ice conditions, reproductive rates and other factors on the harp seal population," said Minister Hearn. "That's important to the people who are depending on DFO to make proper decisions."

DFO is committed to sustainable management of the seal population and sets quotas at levels that ensure the health and abundance of seal herds. The seal hunt is both humane and professional. A report published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal in September, 2002 concluded that virtually all seals are taken in an acceptably humane manner.

Opening dates for the 2007 harp seal hunt will be announced very soon, in consultation with industry.

For accurate information about the seal hunt, please visit http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/seal-phoque
Internet: http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca

BACKGROUNDER

2007 ATLANTIC SEAL HUNT

New Management Measures for 2007

- Starting this year, fleets that overrun their annual quota will see their allocations reduced by the same number of seals in their overrun on a one for one basis the following year. This measure aims to minimize the impact of overruns on the seal population in any given year by ensuring that it is balanced out by a reduction in quota the following year.

- A number of additional measures in 2007 also aim to decrease the possibility of quota overruns. These include: shorter and more controlled opening periods (possibly half-days for some fleets); coordinated regional management and monitoring plans; monitoring at dockside; mandatory hail-outs on departure for some fleets; and daily hails of catches for all sealing vessels, among other measures.

- In order to provide stability in access and reduce the competitive nature of the hunt, DFO will appoint an independent reviewer to reassess regional shares in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the hope of finding a lasting solution. In the interim, the existing sharing arrangement will remain in place for the 2007 hunt.

- A carry forward option, which will be reviewed annually, means fleets can carry forward into the next season up to 10 percent of their allocation if not fully utilized, provided there are no compelling conservation concerns.

Conservation and Sustainable Management

- The Government of Canada is committed to taking a precautionary management approach. Quotas are set at levels that ensure the health and abundance of seal herds.

- The Government of Canada makes every effort to ensure the seal hunt is conducted in a safe and humane manner. The seal hunt is closely monitored and tightly regulated.

- A report published in the Canadian Veterinary Journal in September, 2002 concluded that virtually all seals are taken in an acceptably humane manner.

- Many factors, such as ice conditions, pup mortality, natural mortality, incidental catch, reproductive rates, the Greenland and Arctic hunts and commercial harvest levels are considered when setting quotas for the harp seal hunt.

- The precautionary management system used to manage harp seals has the management objective to keep the population at a healthy level (above 4.07 million). Should the population size diminish below that level, actions will be taken to bring it back to above 4.07.

- DFO is currently planning an international workshop to examine the effects of harp and grey seal predation on fish populations.

Ice Conditions and the harp seal population

- The Atlantic harp seal population is plentiful; nearly triple what it was in the 1970s. The current estimate of harp seals is approximately 5.5 million animals.

- In the past DFO has managed the harvest on the basis of a single population, with an allocation split of roughly 70-30. This represents roughly the proportion of pupping at the Front (about 70%) and in the Gulf (about 30%).

- Only a small component of the entire harp seal herd is impacted by the declining ice conditions in the Southern Gulf this year. Ice conditions remain good in the Northern Gulf and on the Front.

- To better assess the impact of ice conditions, reproductive rates and other factors on the harp seal population, the next harp seal population survey is being moved up one year to 2008. DFO science will be better able to assess the impact of ice conditions, reproductive rates and other factors on the harp seal population.

Contact Information

  • Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Sophie Galarneau
    Media Relations
    613-990-7537
    or
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Ottawa
    Office of the Minister
    Steve Outhouse
    Director of Communications
    613-992-3474
    or
    Fisheries and Oceans Canada
    Phil Jenkins
    Media Relations
    613-294-8193