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The 2006 Seal 'Hunt' Report

Over 335,000 harp seals were killed in 2006, in Canada. The number of seals killed by sealers must be added to the number of seals that died from drowning due to the unusually poor ice conditions. How many seal pups survived? (The DFO certainly doesn't know.) The number of seals killed exceeded the DFO quota. Nobody was penalized for this.

Shot raggedy jacket harp seal pup
AP Photo/ IFAW, StewartCook, HO. March 25, 2006.
One of the first victims of this senseless slaughter: a raggedy-jacket harp seal shot by sealer appears to still be conscious.

Harp seal pups start with white fur and molt over a period of a few weeks. This seal is so young, he/she is just beginning to molt. Yet the DFO allows seals just starting to molt to be killed.

A recap of the slaughter of 2006

When sealers in the southern Gulf started killing, they found that only 20% of the seals had completely moulted. Since raggedy jackets (see photo above) don't bring as high a price, some waited it out. In the end, they killed more than their quota of 18,000 seals. In the northern Gulf, in just a couple days, sealers killed over 88,000 seal pups. All told, over 108,000 innocent pups were killed in the Gulf. This is 16,000 over the quota. There are no penalties for exceeding the quota. What's more, this is the only the official count; this doesn't include pups they wound, who escape and die later.
In addition to the slaughter by Maritime sealers, seal pups have been washing on shores, dead, presumably from drowning. Pups only learn to swim weeks after they are born, so they depend on good ice conditions; but this year, the ice conditions were the worst in recorded history.Read more about the slaughter in the Gulf here.


The sealers of Newfoundland and Labrador began the massacre on the Front on April 12, with a quota of 235,000. The ice was sparse in this area, as it was at the beginning of the slaughter in the Gulf, where many of the pups drowned due to the lack of ice. The larger boats killed their quota of seals by April 17. The smaller boats (about 200) continue to kill seals. Read more about the "hunt" on the Front here.

Representatives from the Humane Society of the United States were arrested on March 26th, just east of the Magdalen Islands for "being too close to the seal hunt" after sealers tried to ram the HSUS Zodiac boat.
The HSUS observation team is still grounded due to Canadian government interference. Perhaps the Canadian government is starting to feel the heat from the worldwide outcry?

In 2006, The Gulf of St. Lawrence had the worst sea ice in recorded history. Nobody has surveyed the mortality due to pups drowning as they fell off the thin, unstable ice. We sounded the alarm in early February: Where is the ice?

In late February and early March, the seal pups were born around the Magdalens and Prince Edward Island. The tour groups saw them. Paul and Heather McCartney saw them at the beginning of March. But what became of them?

Rebecca Aldworth of HSUS was there in late March to document the massacre. She was there with the McCartneys. In late March, she found broken up ice floes where there previously were large floes supporting newborn pups. Few groups of pups were found, most in the eastern Gulf around Cape Breton. It appears that our fears were realized: the thin ice broke up, and many, if not most of the babies drowned! Read Aldworth's Journal from the ice here.

Yet Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn is still allowing the slaughter of whatever seals remain to proceed?! News reports suggest that sealers may have to shoot them in the Gulf this year due to the lack of sturdy ice floes. The determination of the baby seal killers is truly remarkable.

Details on the ice situation for 2006

We wondered whether the seal moms would get so desperate this year due to the lack of ice that they'd whelp on land. That didn't happen. The seal pups were born on the thin ice pans scattered around the Gulf, but many, if not most, drowned as the ice broke up in the unseasonably warm weather. This year, the ice was over a month late in developing, compared to normal years. In February, the year 2006 was declared the worst ice year in recorded history by Environment Canada. Read the ice report now for details.

We demanded a moratorium on the "hunt" in 2006 on the basis of this dangerous ice situation, that we feared would result in death by drowning for hundreds of thousands of seal pups.

The DFO didn't heed this demand.Though the DFO claims to be taking the Precautionary Approach, there is no evidence of this. The poor ice conditions this year may be "the new normal." How this will affect the seal population should be a serious concern of a government agency that applies the Precautionary Approach. Read a report on the uncertainty in the DFO "management" models.


Mother seal with dead baby It is interesting that Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn chose the International Day of Action to make his 2006-2010 Seal "Management Plan" announcement. Originally expected to be released in October, the timing of the announcement of the new quota numbers is a political hot potato for the Canadian government. The delay is not surprising due to the negative publicity generated by the announcement. The government used to announce the quotas every year, but due to the massive public outcry it received after each announcement, decided it best to make the new quotas 3 year deal's so as to limit the public exposure.

The planned slaughter for 2006 was 325,000 harp seals. Read the details here. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) continues to claim that seals are "abundant." They use as a basis of comparison the 1970's, just after those years when the killing rates were about as high as they are now, and as a result, the seal population declined so severely that conservationists and marine scientists worried about extinction.

The DFO continues to claim that the slaughter is humane, despite video and eye-witness testimony to the contrary. Read Rebecca Aldworth's journal for details.

The DFO continues to claim that the "hunt" is well-regulated, despite video and eye-witness evidence of hundreds of violations of their own "humane" regulations, such as the "blinking-eye" test which is supposed to be conducted before the baby seal is skinned. The DFO has failed to prosecute any of these crimes.


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