WASHINGTON, May 29, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- Amidst the global devastation wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic, a silver lining has emerged for seal pups off the east coast of Canada as figures for the country's annual commercial hunt have fallen dramatically, with the majority of the commercial hunt remaining closed.
According to preliminary figures on the website of Canada's Department for Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), only 388 seals have been reported killed to date in this year's hunt in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, which would usually run from mid-April through late May. In all of 2019, the number of seals killed numbered 32,071. While still a significant number, this was only 8% of the 2019 quota of 400,000. Hence, the 2020 figures to date represent an even greater overall reduction.
The seals are killed primarily for their pelts, for use in both the fur and oil industries. Sadly, they are struck using a traditional club called a hakapik, or shot from boats.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has campaigned for an end to Canada's commercial seal hunt since the organization was founded in 1969, on the grounds that the hunt is cruel, unnecessary and unsustainable. In addition, the impact of climate change on the seals' ice breeding habitat has added further urgency among the international community to calls for the hunt to end.
According to Sheryl Fink, IFAW's Campaigns Director, Canadian Wildlife, "This strong decline in the number of seals killed this season is significant, giving us confidence that an end to the commercial seal slaughter in Canada is imminent. We must however keep the pressure on and continue our collective and tireless work to end this cruel and unnecessary slaughter once and for all. We strongly urge the government of Canada to support activities in Atlantic Canada that benefit all marine wildlife, particularly the removal of lost and abandoned fishing gear and reducing marine plastic debris."
In the mid 2000s, seal hunters regularly killed around 330,000 seals a year. These figures dropped steeply however after a successful campaign by IFAW and other groups for the European Union to introduce a ban on the trade in seal products, which was passed in 2009. With a significantly reduced market for the seal skins, many seal hunters stopped taking part in the hunt. IFAW remains committed to continue working on this issue until no seals are killed in Canada for commercial reasons.
Last year IFAW reported that the number of seals killed in the decade since the EU trade ban had dropped by 91%, saving over four million seals pups from this cruel and unnecessary death.
DFO officials confirmed that a commercial hunt of both grey and adult harp seals took place in Canada this year in the Gulf of St Lawrence. However, due to the figures being extremely low, they are not being revealed for privacy reasons and are merely described as 'minimal'. In the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, where the majority of the commercial sealing usually takes place, the commercial seal hunt is not currently open. As harp seals and their pups migrate northwards to Arctic feeding grounds, the likelihood of a significant commercial hunt in Newfoundland remains low.
For more information or to arrange interviews, please contact Rodger Correa via email [email protected]. Images are available on request.
Additional information: Link to latest DFO seal hunt data found here.
About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) - The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we're up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at ifaw.org.