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Canada has acted with gross irresponsibility allowing politics and pride to dictate the quotas set for this year.
There is no scientific justification for raising the quota by five thousand to 325,000 seal pups this year. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the most incompetent and mismanaged and unscientific bureaucracy in the Canadian government, has completely ignored the devastating impact of global warming and the loss already of tens of thousands of seal pups because there is no ice for them to survive upon.
The Gulf of St. Lawrence is virtually free of solid ice. The seals have been desperately clinging to shore fast ice in tiny pockets. There is no central herd of harp seals anywhere in the Gulf.
Nonetheless, the ignorantly-cruel seal killers have taken their boats into the Gulf in an effort to shoot every seal in sight. There will not be much blood on the ice this year but the sea will be saturated with it. The shooting of seals results in a loss on average of one for one and the unrecovered seals do not get included in the quota.
More than a half a million seals will die this spring from drowning, from clubbing, and from the rifles of sealers.
It is a national disgrace yet instead of listening to world opinion, Canadian politicians and some Canadian media are digging in out of misguided national pride to defend the slaughter and cruelty inflicted on the seals.
Sealers in this region of the hunt prefer to use clubs and hakapiks as they are cheaper and cause less pelt damage, rifles are this year's killing implement of choice. We watched as sealers tried to kill moving seals on small drifting ice blocks.
Unlike last year, when hunters killed thousands of seal pups on large ice pans in just a few days, this year hunters will have to spend more time searching for the few seal pups that survived the wrath of climate change.
Scientists such as Duke University's Ari Friedlaender say ice cover is declining in critical areas that seals depend on to give birth. Friedlaender suspects this year's pup mortality will be high. After covering a vast area of the Gulf and seeing so few seals, it is becoming increasingly likely many of the pups have already drowned.
The pups that managed to survive the melting ice conditions are currently under siege by hunters. Lying on a small ice block, the pups have nowhere to escape but in the water which isn't the best refuge for the many that have yet to learn how to swim. The accumulative effect of a large commercial hunt and declining ice could be detrimental to Canada's seal herds. But instead of stopping the hunt until research on the implications of climate change is conducted, Harper's government has decided to increase the allowable kill rationalizing that they will deal with the mystery of disappearing ice next year.
Canadian Tourism Commission
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The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Office of the Prime Minister
80 Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2
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The Honourable Mr. Loyola Hearn
House of Commons
Minister, Fisheries and Oceans
Parliament Buildings, Wellington Street
Ottawa, ON K1A 0A6
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SEAL HUNT FACTS
The Canadian commercial seal hunt is the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world. Canada intends to kill more seals in 2006.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) announced a kill quota of 975,000 baby and adult harp seals and 30,000 adult hood seals over a 3-year period (from 2003-2005).
In 2004, 365,971 seals were slaughtered, and during the 2003 season 283,497 harp seals were killed. In 2002, the sealers slaughtered over 312,000 although the kill quota was set at 275,000. There were no legal consequences for the quota overkill. Instead, the Canadian government rewarded the kill quota violations with an incredible increase of 75,000 seals!
There is no scientific justification for these quotas as the seal counting techniques used amount to little more than guesswork. Further, Canadian author and naturalist (and Sea Shepherd International Chairman),
Farley Mowat, estimates that for every seal landed, another is shot and lost under the ice, not to be included in
the count. According to the Canadian government, the hunt will not harm seal populations, however, the facts dispute their unfounded claim. When the first European explorers landed on the East coast of Canada, there were an estimated 30 million harp, hood, and gray seals (harp seals made-up 80%, or 24M, of that number). Because of the reckless management of the hunt in the past, Canada allowed the number of harp seals to drop to 1.8 million in the early 1970s. Now they claim that a "healthy" population of 5.2 million exists but in the same breath admit that they have not had a peer-reviewed population survey since 1999. They predict that the anticipated survey's population number will be lower than their current claim, and further, their "management" plan still allows for the numbers to drop far below the 1970s level.
Scientists and environmentalists dispute the Canadian government's population claims, and believe the hunt is a threat to the survival of the species. In the last four years alone, over a million harp seals have been killed. While the world waits for a new population survey, seals are wantonly slaughtered.
Clearly, the government of Canada is willing to sacrifice everything (from their national reputation, to the wrath of the taxpayers, to economic hardship from boycotts) to continue their seal hunt which is nothing more than a make-work project for out-of-work fishermen.
After decades of this mismanagement and the resulting collapse of the East coast cod industry, the Canadian DFO has declared war on the seals in hopes that massive seal kills will bring back the cod and keep their disgruntled fishermen working. In fact, cod is not a major food source of the harp and hood seal diet. Further, recent evidence suggests that killing seals contributes to bacterial infestation on the ocean floor which leads to hypoxia, a condition in which patches of ocean lose all the dissolved oxygen and are unable to sustain cod or fish or marine life of any kind. However, these facts seem to have been brushed aside by the DFO in their efforts to justify and continue the slaughter.
The Canadian government looks for as many avenues as possible to profit from their annual, government-subsidized slaughter. Currently, Canada exports the following seal products: sealskins (furskins/pelts and leather), seal oil, and seal meat. Unfortunately, due to a revived fashion trend, the demand for seal pelts has sky-rocketed, especially in Europe. Harpseals.org reports that high fashion designers such as Prada and Dolce & Gabbana are selling sealskin apparel. Other companies selling seal fur products include Odette Leblanc Collection, Petit Nordand, and Pajar. Canada sold pelts to 11 countries in 2004 with Norway, Germany, Greenland, and China purchasing the largest quantities. Other buying countries were Finland, Denmark, France, Hong Kong, Greece, South Korea, and Russia.
On the other hand, seal meat sales are not going as well for Canada. Seal meat is generally considered to be inedible and unfit for human consumption. While there is a small market in Newfoundland for the seal flippers (for seal flipper pie), most of the rest of the very small amount of meat found in the slaughtered seal, if utilized at all, would be purchased by pet food and fur farm industries. In 2004, only Taiwan and South Korea purchased seal meat.
Clearly Canada is not satisfied with the underperformance of seal meat sales as according to their own website, they continue to spend tax-payers money to try to peddle seal meat and are still seeking more places to sell the seal meat:
Finding a market for seal meat outside of Newfoundland continues to present a major challenge for the sealing industry. The amount of seal meat landed in 2002 was extremely low, in part because the hunt was mainly directed at younger animals (beaters), which have very little recoverable meat. [Note: "beaters" are seal pups who are approximately 4 weeks old]
Canada, however, is optimistic about the prospects of sales of seal oil and is looking to increase their sales in this area. The way they are doing that is by falsely promoting seal oil capsules as a healthy source of Omega-3 (an essential fatty acid). As they report on their website:
The market for seal oil remains positive. Presently, a good percentage of seal oil is finding its way into areas other than the traditional marine and industrial oils. The industry is positive about this new development but is aware that more R&D is required to expand the range of products derived from seal oil.
"R&D" (Research and Development) means more Canadian tax dollars going to the cause of killing seals.
Sea Shepherd has a different take on the selling of seal oil. It is Sea Shepherd's opinion that Canada is misleading consumers by marketing seal oil in the health food industry as a "health" alternative. Seal oil contains bioaccumulative PCBs. A known animal carcinogen, PCBs produce health affects such as skin ailments called chloracne, reproductive disorders, liver disease, and other problems. PCBs are stored in body fat and are also dangerously bioaccumulated in the foodchain. Resistant to degradation, PCBs persist for many years in the environment. What Canada markets as benefits of seal oil is the Omega-3 and essential fatty acids - Sea Shepherd recommends these health supplements should be taken in plant form, such as hemp and flaxseed oils. Last year, Costco Wholesale Corporation pulled seal oil capsules from their store shelves in St. John's, Newfoundland, when a Sea Shepherd representative provided them with information about the sealing industry, and in particular, the killing methods of sealers. To learn more please visit our page on the Canadian government.
Many are under the impression that this cruel and inhumane slaughter was stopped for good. Anti-seal hunt campaigns by Sea Shepherd and other organizations together with pressure from Europe to boycott Canadian products brought the industry to a halt. In 1984, after the European Parliament banned the import of baby harp seal pelts, the Canadian seal hunt was reduced to a limited landsmen hunt.
FINALLY GOOD NEWS
13 February 2006 Italy Enacts Temporary Ban on Seal Products
Demonstrating the growing momentum in Europe to shut down the markets for seal products, Italy has temporarily suspended the import of seal skins and seal derived products. According to the Italian Vice-Minister for Trade and Industrial Affairs, no new import licences will be granted in the coming months. This is a critical step towards putting an end to the cruel and unjustifiable massacre of seals in Canada's commercial seal hunt.
• Update on national seal bans:
• January 2006:
o Mexico bans the import and export of all marine mammals (i.e. including seals) and their derived products (similar to the US Marine Mammal Protection Act from 1972).
o Greenland instructs its public state company not to trade in seal pelts originating from the Canadian seal hunt.
• December 2005: The Dutch Parliament initiated a legislative proposal to ban the import/export and marketing of harp and hooded seals and their derived products. The proposal is expected to be debated in the Parliament in the coming months.
• May 2004: The Belgian Government adopts a legislative proposal to ban the import/export and marketing of all seal products. After notification with the European Commission and WTO, the proposal is due to be presented to the Belgian Parliament.
• The European Union introduced in 1983 a ban on seal products derived from whitecoats (newborn harp seals, less than 12 days old) and bluebacks (young hooded seals, less than one year old). Unfortunately, this ban is not effective in order to stop the current trade of harp and hooded seal pelts in Europe. Today, seals are hunted when they are just a few days older and their pelts can therefore be legally traded in the EU.
• The United States introduced in 1972 the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), which prohibits the import/export and marketing of marine mammal products (i.e. including seal derived products). The law also applies to live marine mammals.
• The Council of Europe adopted in 2004 a Motion for a Resolution (initiated by the Italian MP Azzolini) to stop the commercial hunt of seals and called on its Member States to introduce national bans on seal derived products. The Assembly also debated a report produced by the Italian MP Nessa, which criticised the cruelty of the hunt. The report will be voted on in April 2006.