International Fund for Animal Welfare

International Fund for Animal Welfare

March 06, 2008 17:18 ET

IFAW: World Watches Canada: Science and a Lack of Markets Demand Lower Harp Seal Quota

OTTAWA, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - March 6, 2008) - With a decision on a European seal product ban looming, all eyes are on Canada as animal welfare groups and conservationists await the government's announcement of this year's Total Allowable Catch for harp seals.

Sheryl Fink, a researcher with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who will be observing the harp seal hunt later this month, said the hunt should be ended based on animal welfare considerations alone. "Year after year, our observations show that this hunt remains inherently inhumane. What occurs on the ice is completely unacceptable to the majority of Canadians. Regulations are rarely respected, seals are not killed humanely, and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) seems content to turn a blind eye."

A veterinary report from the European Food Safety Authority last year also cited concerns with the way seals are killed in Canada's harp seal hunt. The report confirmed that during Canada's commercial seal hunt, animals "suffer pain and distress." It also concluded that the DFO's claim that 98% of seals were killed humanely was "scientifically incorrect."

Fink also noted concerns for the conservation of the harp seal herd. In 2007, the harp seal population took a severe blow as hundreds of thousands of newborn pups perished in the Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence due to poor ice conditions.

DFO scientists have acknowledged that the harp seal population is in decline, and that a serious reduction in the total allowable catch will be required in order to keep within the government's stated management objectives.

"We remain hopeful that this year's announcement will be based on science, and that the government will honour its commitment to taking a precautionary approach," said Fink.

"Given the recent history of unsustainable catches and poor ice conditions, anything less than a drastic reduction in the TAC for this year is completely unjustified and simply irresponsible.

"On top of it all, demand for seal fur just isn't there. All recent evidence indicates that the market for seal fur is saturated, inventories are high, and seal pelts are simply not selling."

"Commercial sealing is a dying industry. It's time for Canada to move on."

Contact Information

  • IFAW Canada
    Marie-France Lettre
    613-241-3982 ext.225