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Sealing over the years

Reports from the Canadian seal 'hunt'

Find news and opinion articles on sealing over the years here.

 


 

The 2016 seal hunt

Seal pup shot - Aldworth - HSI
This seal pup was shot on April 13, 2016. Photo: Rebecca Aldworth, HSI 2016

Over 66,800 seal pups were killed in Canada's bloody, cruel slaughter in 2016

The official number does not include "struck and lost" seals who were injured but got away, only to die later of their wounds.

The killing began on April 10th and continued for about a month. Most seal pups were born in March, so when they were killed, they were only about one to two months of age.

Prior to the slaughter, seals had to contend with a lack of sea ice, on which mothers give birth to their babies and where the babies stay until they are able to swim in about a month. The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) warned that there would be few pups who survive in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence in 2016, due to the very poor state of the sea ice.

The El Niño effect exacerbated the ice condition, which has been deteriorating over the years due to climate change. In 2016, sea ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was so bad that all seal tours in Canada were been canceled.

In 2016, sealers continued to try to expand the seal 'hunt'. Magdalen Islands sealers lobbied the government to allow sealing on Brion Island, a nature reserve.

Canadian Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette put forth a bill in the Senate to declare "National Seal Products Day," a holiday to celebrate the brutal, cruel, wasteful, and unnecessary seal massacre. It was not her first time and probably won't be her last effort at promoting the sealing industry. The bill was sent to the House Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans after receiving 283 yes votes and 3 no votes on November 2nd.

Carino, a Norwegian company that is the main seal skin processor in Newfoundland, bought seal pelts again in 2016, after a hiatus in which they said they wanted to reduce stockpiles. This contributed to the magnitude of the slaughter in 2016.

 


 

The 2015 seal hunt

Sealer drags shot seal pup onto boat - photo HSI 2015
As bloody and gruesome as ever, the Canadian seal slaughter was observed by HSI again in 2015. This photo comes from a video clip showing a sealer dragging a seal pup who was shot onto their ship for skinning.

According to the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), sealers killed 35,304 in 2015 (the official number from May 21). This is essentially all a result of the offer of a newcomer to the industry, Bernie Halloran, of Always In Vogue and PhocaLux International, to buy 30,000 seal pelts.

Halloran has said that his goal is to establish a seal fur industry in China. Given the economics of selling to the Chinese market, it is unlikely that this project will be a success.

Once again, the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government provided subsidies to the sealing industry.

Sealer hooks seal pup - photo HSI 2015 from video
Sealer hooks and drags seal pup after shooting pup on ice floe. Photo from HSI video footage 2015.

According to the government press release, "The $2 million in loan funding will go toward the purchase of seal meat, pelts and fat to be processed by Carino Processing Ltd. at its facility in South Dildo and by PhocaLux International Inc. at its facility in Fleur de Lys. Each company will make matching contributions for processing and marketing activities...

In addition to providing loans for inventory financing, the Provincial Government has assisted the sealing industry over the past several years with funding to support international marketing efforts, research and development projects in support of new products and sealer training seminars."

Grey seal pup - photo PA
Grey seal pup. Photo: PA

The seal skin processing company that has been buying almost all the pelts from sealers over the years, Carino, declined to participate in the slaughter this year due to excess stockpiles.

Sealers also killed 910 grey seal pups in the Magdalen Islands region. This is the official number and does not include any seals who were injured by got away.

When seals are injured but escape, they are called 'struck and lost' and are not counted in the official tally. This is less common with grey seals, who are killed on land, than it is with harp seals, who are killed on ice floes.

 


 

The 2014 seal hunt

Sealer drags killed harp seal pup - from HSUS video 2014
Sealer drags harp seal pup onto boat. Photo from HSUS/HSI video 2014

Over 54,600 harp seal pups were killed in 2014, by off-season Canadian fishermen. This does not include seals who were 'struck and lost', which means that they are injured by sealers but escape, only to die later.

Canada's claims that this slaughter is humane are belied by footage like that which Humane Society International obtained this year. View it here.

Articles, like the one by Dr. Andrew Butterworth, Senior Lecturer in Animal Sciences and Senior Fellow at the University of Bristol, UK, entitled, "The moral problem with commercial seal hunting" helped influence the WTO Appellate Body to uphold the WTO Panel's previous finding that the EU Seal Regime (banning seal product imports) is "necessary to protect public morals."

Each year, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans sets kill quotas for each region of the sealing area, which covers the Gulf of St. Lawrence and the Atlantic Ocean area off Newfoundland. The total kill quota for the Front (off Newfoundland) for 2014 was 270,701 seals. In the past few years, sealers have not met unrealistically large quotas (which have remained at 400,000 overall) but still killed about 37,000 to 90,000 seal pups. In 2014, Carino, the main seal pelt processor, offered to buy 60,000 seal pelts.

One of the harp seal pelt buyers is now Hatem Yavuz, who is also the main buyer of Cape fur seal pelts from Namibia.

Canada's Government Subsidies for Sealing

Canada's federal government gave about a half million Canadian dollars to a sealing trade association to fund market development for seal meat late last year. Whether this association will be successful in convincing people in the remaining countries without seal product bans to consume meat that even most sealers and their families refuse to eat is a mystery.

The provincial government of Newfoundland and Labrador gave $60,000 this year to another sealing group to fund an "awareness" campaign to promote sealing and seal products. We look forward to seeing and responding to the propaganda that results from this (ab)use of taxpayer money.

 


 

The 2013 seal hunt

Canadian sealer retrieves wounded harp seal - HSI 2013
A Canadian sealer from the ship Nickerson Venture hops out of the ship to retrieve a wounded, bleeding harp seal pup, whose flipper was still moving after being shot from the boat. The boat was waving as it moved in rough waters, making it extremely difficult, if not impossible to shoot the seal in the head. The seals wounded by sealers in this way are clubbed on the head once the sealers reach them. Photo taken from HSI video of the 2013 seal slaughter.

In 2013, sealers from both the Magdalen Islands of Quebec and from Prince Edward Island participated in the first phase of the seal 'hunt', known as the Gulf.

In the second phase, sealers from Newfoundland and Labrador participated in the killing on the Front.

In total, sealers killed about 90,318 harp seal pups, which is over 21,000 more than last year. All this killing was subsidized by Newfoundland taxpayers.

Sealers (who are off-season fishermen) bludgeon and shoot these seal pups for their pelts.

The seals, according to official policy, are supposed to be killed by shots to the head or blows to the head with hakapiks or clubs. As HSI/HSUS's Rebecca Aldworth found in filming the killing from a helicopter, the seals often suffer for several minutes.

Sealers may aim for the head, but their shots are not always on target. Seals shot in other parts of their bodies linger in pain and are even hooked in the mouth by sealers on boats who then drag them aboard, club them, and skin them. See photos here. See video footage on the HSUS website)

Seals face other threats, too. Climate change has reduced the extent and thickness of sea ice in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the first phase of the seal 'hunt' takes place.

In the first phase of the slaughter, about 1,600 seal pups were killed. The seal pups who were killed were members of a small herd (estimated by one Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) official to have included 2,000 to 3,000 pups before the killing began) located off the coast of Prince Edward Island.

They were concentrated in one small area because of the lack of sea ice in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence. This ice floe was about the only good one for pupping.

These seal pups were killed by sealers (Canadian fishermen) on 5 boats as well as land-based sealers.

The Canadian Sealing Association claims that seal pelts went for $35 each in 2013 (which would be for the highest grade pelts). These pelts, they say, are being sold in Asia. Carino, the company that received a second CAN$3.6 million loan from the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government, refused to reveal the countries to which these pelts were sent.

Not only was this slaughter paid for entirely with the Newfoundland tax money through the CAN$3.6 million loan (without which, Carino would not have been able to buy the seal pelts), but the Canadian government also surveys the herd and provides coordinates of the seal herd to the sealers.

 


 

The 2012 seal hunt

The official number of harp seal pups less than 2 months of age who were killed in Canada in 2012 is 69,175. This includes 1,569 seal pups less than 3 weeks of age. These numbers do not include seals who were 'struck and lost', in other words, injured, but who got away, only to bleed to death in the ocean.

All these seal pups were killed by 680 sealers. The rest of the 6,000 Canadian fishermen who held sealing licenses did not kill seals. Some of these fishermen may have decided on their own not to kill seals this year, but others simply did not receive a promise by Carino to purchase pelts. Carino made commitments to only a fraction of the fishermen who wanted to kille seals this year.

Carino was the only company that purchased seal skins in 2012. This company purchased the skins with Newfoundland taxpayers' money. Thanks to the ban on seal product imports by Russia (see information below), the demand for seal pelts has fallen dramatically.

However, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador decided to prop up the 'industry' by giving the main seal skin processor, Carino (owned by G.C. Reiber, based in Norway) a $3.6 million loan with which to buy seal skins and blubber for a nearly non-existent market. This resulted in the death of almost twice as many seal pups as last year.

Killed harp seal pup - photo HSI 2012
Killed harp seal pup. Body left to rot after seal was skinned. Photo: HSI 2012

Newfoundland's provincial government claimed that this would provide income to hundreds of sealers, but straight payouts to 1,000 sealers would have provided $3,600 per sealer, much more than sealers have made from the spring seal killing sprees in recent years.

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has not disclosed terms of the loan nor how Carino would be expected to be able to repay it given the lack of markets for seal products.

On top of this, the province gave money to a fur company to promote seal furs in Toronto.

 

Vernon Lavers - Sealer from Newfoundland - photo CBC 2012"It's like anything — it's a gamble, I suppose,.. You got to take a chance on it, and hopefully it works out for the best...It's in your blood...It's a chance for a little bit of income for us while we're waiting for other fisheries to start." - Vernon Lavers, Newfoundland sealer

-From interview with CBC reporter Doug Greer

 

 


 

The 2011 seal hunt

Below are summaries of what occurred in the harp seal massacre and grey seal massacre in Canada as well as in Namibia's Cape fur seal massacre in 2010.

Canada's 2011 Harp Seal Slaughter

Photo S. Cook, IFAW 2011
Sealer holding killed seal. Photo: S. Cook, IFAW 2011.
Canada's fisheries minister, Gail Shea, set a record quota for killing seals this year: 468,200. But two factors thwarted the sealers' killing spree this year: our campaigns to end sealing and climate change.

Sealers in 2011 killed 37,609 seal pups. (This is the official count.) This includes over 1,700 ragged jackets (molting seals under 3 weeks old). The seal 'hunt' remains open as long as the quota is not met, but commercial sealing boats are not currently going out to kill seals. Thus the number of seal pups killed this year is expected to total about 8% of the quota.

This year, observers from IFAW and HSI witnessed more violations of the regulations that are supposed to prevent horrendous cruelty - like checking for blinking and cutting an artery on the pups to make sure that they are dead.

They witnessed the shooting of the youngest seal pups who legally can be killed - the 'ragged jackets'. One pup they saw was shot in the neck and left to suffer, crying in agony. Nevertheless, the Canadian government continues to claim that the seal 'hunt' is humane. Harpseals.org contends that it is senseless cruelty and must be ended once and for all.

Two factors prevented sealers from killing more seals this spring:

1. Few seal pups were to be found. In this second phase of the 'hunt', as in the first phase, the seal pups have been few in number. In the first phase of the slaughter, sealers on only four boats from the Magdalen Islands went out to kill seals. They were able to kill only about 11% of their 105,000 seal quota because most of the seal pups drowned this year due to the extreme lack of sea ice.

2. Prices for seal pelts are low, and few buyers are to be found. This is because of the campaigns that we and other organizations have been running for years; campaigns that have resulted in the EU ban on seal product imports.

Now, it is time to put the final nail in the coffin of this dying 'industry'. We will do this by spreading the boycott of Canadian seafood, which is already putting great pressure on the fishing industry that is behind this seal slaughter

 


Canada's Grey Seal Kill of 2011

Photo: Paul Darrow - Reuters 2011
Sealer strikes grey seal. Photo: Paul Darrow, Reuters, 2011.

Sealers arrived Thursday, February 25th, on Hay Island, Nova Scotia, to kill the grey seal pups. The Canadian government gave them a quota of 1,900 pups. This slaughter took place in what is supposed to be a protected wilderness. Killing seal pups seems to be the exception to the wildlife protection regulations.

In 2011, sealers used low-caliber rifles as an experiment. Both the initiator of this experiment, Dr. Pierre-Yves Daoust, a wildlife pathologist at the University of Prince Edward Island, and anti-seal hunt activists who observed the killing, said that several seals were not killed right away. Daoust says 90% were killed instantly from the bullet.

The sealers claim that they have two buyers who are interested in the pelts, flesh, and internal organs of the pup. One of these buyers is Northeast Coast Sealers Cooperative, of Newfoundland, a company that received a federal grant of $50,000 to develop a plan for "value-added seal products". So Canadian taxpayers are footing the bill for the killing of these grey seal pups.

Read more about the grey seal 'hunt' on our 2011 seal hunt page. Take action. Read background information on the grey seal 'hunts' here.

 


 

The Cape Fur Seal Massacre in Namibia in 2011

Killed Cape fur seal pupsOver 90,000 Cape fur seals, including 85,000 pups were clubbed and stabbed to death in Namibia in August 2011, by just a handful of sealers.

Sealers corral these seals in a small area on a beach and massacre pups in front of their mothers. Now the government of Namibia says it will increase the killing next year.

Current efforts are being made to stop this slaughter through Namibia's court system. Francois Hugo, of Seal Alert South Africa is pursuing this effort. More details can be found here.

Animal protection groups and/or journalists have tried to get video footage of the slaughter through surreptitious means. The government of Namibia is determined to stop this. Read news about this and other aspects of the killing on our news pages: here, here, and here.

 


 

The 2010 seal hunt

The Canadian government announced the 2010 quota in March: 388,200 seal pups. Killing that many seal pups this year would leave few survivors. This quota demonstrates how little regard the Canadian government has for protecting wildlife.

However, conditions this year resulted in the killing of far fewer seals than this quota. This year, the depressed market for seal fur, a direct result of the campaign to end the seal 'hunt', and the terrible ice conditions kept the sealers from reaching the high quota. In all, the Canadian government reported that 67,000 seals were killed in 2010. Sealers received a maximum of CAN$21 for the "highest quality" pelt.

Struggling whitecoat harp seal pup
Whitecoat harp seal pup struggles to get back onto broken ice floe. Pups at this age do not yet know how to swim. Photo by Reuters. 2010

Many died by drowning or starvation

Harp seals give birth to their pups on solid sea ice. So, in 2007, when temperatures were so warm that little sea ice formed, and what did form was thin and unstable, most seal pups born in the Gulf of St. Lawrence drowned before they were old enough to swim. This year was even worse. Environment Canada, the Canadian regulatory agency, said that these were the worse ice conditions in recorded history (i.e., since Canada started keeping records in 1969).

Thousands of seals died as a result. Many pups were spotted on shorelines and beaches, where few were expected to survive.

One of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Ocean (DFO) scientists has admitted that such ice conditions lasting for several years could put the species in jeopardy. We and other animal protection organizations urged the Canadian government to adhere to the Precautionary Approach to wildlife management (as they have stated they do), and permanently end the annual slaughter of seals.

Unfortunately, the DFO responded by saying that "it's up to the sealers to determine if they want to go out [to kill seals] or not," and by increasing their kill quota.

 


 

The 2009 seal hunt

Sealers piling up bodies of seal pups
Sealers piling up bodies of killed seal pups. (c) Andrew Vaughan 2009

Though sealers from the Magdalen Islands of Quebec killed over 19,000 seal pups in just 3 days, reaching their quota in the first phase of the seal 'hunt', the second phase of the seal hunt began more slowly in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence on April 10th. The sealers of Newfoundland and Labrador, who are fishermen most of the year, were hampered by some bad weather and discouraged by the low price offered for seal pelts - a direct result of the European Union's efforts at banning imports of all seal products. The passage of the EU ban resulted in the lowest number of seals killed since 1994. In 2009, about 72,400 seal pups were killed.

The DFO's unrealized plans for 2009

The Canadian government set a quota on killing harp seals of about 280,000 animals in 2009, with 70% of the quota of seals to be killed in the second phase of the seal 'hunt' on 'The Front' (waters east of Newfoundland and Labrador and also in the northern Gulf of St. Lawrence). The first phase of the seal hunt took place in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The slaughter of harp seals is in addition to a quota of 8,200 hooded seals and 50,000 grey seals, also pups. In February, hundreds of grey seal pups were killed in Cape Breton when a buyer was found for their fur.

These figures do not include seals who are 'struck and lost' (i.e., injured by sealers, but escape, probably dying in the ocean).

Read more about how the seal hunt happens and why here. Read news about the seal hunt here.

 


 

The 2008 seal hunt

The kill quota, the killing, and sealing boat troubles

The total kill quota for harp seals was set by the Canadian government at 275,000 in 2008. This is broken up into quotas for sealers in different regions of Atlantic Canada and for small boats versus longliners.

Killing harp seal pups
Sealers killing harp seal pups. (c) AFP, Getty, IFAW 2008

The quota for grey seals was 12,000. For hooded seals, the kill quota was 8.200.

The slaughter of harp seals began in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence on March 28. About 100 sealers from the Magdalen Islands set out in several ships, killing about 1,000 seal pups in the first two days.

On the second day of the seal 'hunt', a boat, L'Acadien II, from the Magdalen Islands, capsized while it was being towed by the Canadian Coast Guard. Four sealers died. Another seven sealers were rescued from the Annie Marie, when their boat took on water. Three boats were lost on the Front. In these cases, no sealers were hurt.

In April, sealing extended to the waters off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador ('the Front'). By April 18, sealers in the Gulf of St. Lawrence had killed about half their quota of 51,500 seals and sealers on the Front had killed over 108,000 seal pups. By this date, longliners had killed about 79% of their quota of 112,000 seals.

Total killed

The high gasoline prices, which increase the cost of getting to the seal herds, along with the low prices offered for the seal pelts, resulted in reduced interest in sealing. Many sealers decided to just stay home. Some sealers said they would be happy just to break even, showing that money is not the only motivation that sealers have for slaughtering seal pups. Even so, 217,857 harp seals were officially killed in 2008. According to Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), fewer than 400 hooded seals were killed; and 1,472 grey seals were killed.

New regulations

In an effort to reduce opposition to the seal slaughter, the Canadian government introduced new seal killing rules. One criticism of the seal 'hunt' has been the finding by a veterinary panel that up to 42% of the seal pups were skinned alive.

In response to this criticism, the DFO set new standards in 2008 for sealers to follow when killing seals. In addition to the 'blinking-eye test', the DFO now instructs sealers to palpate the seal's skull to assess whether it has been fatally crushed.The sealers are then supposed to bleed the seals by severing the two arteries under the front flippers. The sealers were 'trained' on these new requirements by members of the Canadian Sealers Association who traveled around Newfoundland with an instructional video a few weeks before the start of the hunt.

Sea Shepherd Ship

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society brought the R/V Farley Mowat to the Gulf of St. Lawrence in protest of the seal slaughter. The Canadian government ordered the ship to stay out of Canadian waters, but Sea Shepherd entered the waters it was legally allowed to as a Dutch registered yacht. On March 30, the boat was rammed by a Canadian Coast Guard vessel. On April 5, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans, Loyola Hearn, laid charges against the captain and first officer of the Farley Mowat, alleging that the ship approached too close to the seal hunt. Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers boarded the vessel, arrested the captain and first officer, and seized the boat. The captain and first officer were released on bail. Read more here.

 


 

The 2007 seal hunt

Slaughtered Very Young Seal Pup
Killed seal pup, about 2 weeks old. Photo (c) HSUS 2007

After killing about two thirds of the quota of seals, almost 100 sealing boats became trapped in the ice pack that formed off Newfoundland and Labrador from a low pressure system that moved through the area in mid-April.

The Canadian Coast Guard brought in ice breaker boats to rescue the sealers, but some of their own boats became stuck as well. They then began flying in supplies by helicopter. All this amounts to more taxpayer funding of the senseless cruelty known as the 'seal hunt.' Read more about the sealers' woes here.

As the year's seal victims got clubbed, shot, and skinned alive for their furs, you can rest assured that this shameful waste of life continues year after year for the same reasons it has for decades: fashion, vanity, greed, and politics... (fur coats and frivolous seal trinkets = mass death for vanity.)

Once again, a few thousand sealers, mostly from Newfoundland and Quebec have cast shame on Canada as they have smashed in the heads of hundreds of thousands more baby animals this year.

Spars Ice for Seals
Sparse ice with 2 lone seals. (c) HSUS 2007

Overall, the Canadian government said that sealers killed 224,745 seals in 2007. Keep in mind, this is in addition to the uncounted seals killed (those who were 'struck and lost') and in addition to the ecological disaster that took the lives of as many as a quarter million seal pups too young to swim. The massive drownings are the result of the abysmal ice conditions in the Gulf of St. Lawrence - the worst conditions in recorded history, and forewarn of what global warming will bring.

HSUS reported from the northern Gulf and the Front. No observers were allowed to witness the first phase, in the southern Gulf, which began April 2nd, and resulted in the deaths of over 800 pups, far fewer than usual. Most had already drowned.

It was so surprise to us that the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) ignored their own scientists' warnings of a potentially devasting and irreversable population crash of the harp and hooded seal herds in the coming years and announced another extremely irresponsible kill quota...

Seal Carcasses and Bloody Ice
Skinned seal carcasses, left to rot. Photo (c) HSUS 2007

In fact, they continue promoting this shameful slaughter with a "business as usual" attitude despite mounting world opposition and evidence that the seal population, like the polar bear population, is in jeopardy. This year, they are attempting to sway the European Commission delegation to their favor, in an effort to prevent a comprehensive seal product import ban into the European Union, but given their flaunting of the "Precautionary Approach" to ecosystem management, they may be hard-pressed to earn the delegation's rubber stamp.

Meanwhile, the taxpayers of Canada are also victims of this tragedy as they unwittingly fund the "hunt" by way of Coast Guard seal spotter planes and ice cutting services for the killers, government services designed to facilitate the slaughter in the seal nurseries- at no cost at all to the "industry" or to the small group of profiteers from this massacre.

And so, any hopes for "responsible resource management" or "sustainable ecological practices" (promised by the DFO) can be officially thrown out the window and abandoned.

Let's be clear: the DFO continues to promote the shameful act of systematically decimating a marine species and will continue to do so until the seals are gone or we stop it.

As the mantra goes, "If not you, who? ; If not now, when?"

 


 

The 2006 seal hunt

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, left) 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.

Poor ice conditions

In addition to the slaughter by Maritime sealers, seal pups washed on shores, dead, presumably from drowning. Pups only learn to swim about two to three weeks after they are born, so they depend on good ice conditions; but in 2006, the ice conditions were the worst thus far in recorded history.

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.

Yet Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn still allowed the slaughter of whatever seals remained. News reports suggested that sealers might have to shoot seal pups rather than clubbing them with hakapiks in the Gulf due to the lack of sturdy ice floes.

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.

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 did not 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 babyThe DFO and the Quota Announcement

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 announce three or four year "management plants" so as to limit the public exposure.

The planned slaughter for 2006 was 325,000 harp seals. 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.

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.

The Massacre on the Front

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.

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 2005 seal hunt

With an official start date of March 29th, the annual Canadian harp seal massacre ("hunt") for 2005 was finally over by July...

Although harsh weather played to the seal's advantage early on in both phases of the massacre, the seals ultimately lost the battle to the ever-pursuing killers. As is always the case, they never really stood a chance...

Bloody seal bodies on iceOver 300,000 seal pups killed

The "official" public report from the government declaring the final "harvest numbers" for the 2005 season indicates the ridiculous quota of 319,000 baby animals (overall) had been reached. (because there is no official end date for obtaining the quota, it is always reached as long as the ice conditions permit.)

And of course, the always plentiful "struck and lost" numbers weren't, and never are, figured in these final "official" quota numbers.

But none of this was unexpected... With the support of the government's continuous and ever impressive efforts to help the sealers reach their bloody quota, it was just business as usual for the sealers. Adding this years numbers to the previous 2 years of killing, the 2005 season ended the record breaking 3 year quota of 975,000 animals, with more than a MILLION seals killed overall...

Why and how can this continue?
The absurd amount of seal killing that continues year after year in Canada occurs for the same reasons it always has: vanity, greed, politics, and Newfoundland "lifestyle" choices.

And once again, as we reflect upon all aspects of the insane carnage of 2005, Harpseals.org vows to continue fighting until the government declares the killing finally over.Seal bodies left to rot

The Gulf

Phase one: Quebec's Gulf Front:The "hunt" in this region was only open 5 days this year and most of the killing took place in the space of just 3.

Although harsh weather had prevented the sealers here from killing for the first few days, the total quota for the Gulf this season ended up being 107,000 seals.

The Front

Phase 2: The Newfoundland/ Labrador Front:
Reportedly, there were over 320 different sealing boats in the area for the second phase of this year's Canadian seal slaughter. The boats here are typically larger than in Quebec's Gulf of Saint Lawrence, and the area is more remote and has thicker ice. But the predominent difference between these 2 phases of the slaughter is the method of killing: in the Gulf they mostly use hakapiks and shoot only a few, whereas on "The Front" they mostly use guns to kill the seals, then scoop them out of the water using hooks.

As a result, the "struck and lost" numbers (seals they shoot, but merely injure, or can't hook quickly enough, who then slip away under the ice to die), in this area are always higher than in the Gulf.

As for the killers themselves, our guess is the Newfie sealers are pretty much cut of the same cloth as the Gulf sealers: I'm sure they kill the seal babies with the same zealousness the Gulf killers exhibited.

Harpseals.org founder films the seal hunt on the Sea Shepherd mission
2005 killing floes...Read the story...

In an attempt to play a more effective role in ending the killing, Ian Robichaud, founder of Harpseals.org, witnessed the horror first hand in 2005, having had a surreal experience onboard the Sea Shepherd boat, Farley Mowat... Read Ian's exclusive: Tales and insight from the killing floes
3/31/05- Harpseals.org founder attacked by hakapiks and gets it all on tape! Sealer attacks Ian...Click to enlarge
Assault charges were dropped...the video tapes were 'insufficient evidence.' No surprise that the Canadian 'justice system' would fail to punish the sealers...
Ian's stint as Sea Shepherd Crew Member ended after the Gulf phase of the action. "My heart remained with the boat and its new crew as it left the port of Saint Pierre (my port of leave) on 4/09 and traveled to the Newfoundland front," he said.

 


 

The 2004 seal hunt

Aftermath of sealing - IFAW - 2004
The aftermath of sealing in Canada. (c) IFAW 2004

March 24, 2004, marked opening day of the annual Canadian Seal Hunt for the 2004 season. (Gulf region). The quota for the year had been set at an incredible 350,000 animals, the 2nd part of a 3 year plan of extermination: a total allowable "catch" of 975,000 seals- the highest total in over 50 years of its bloody history.

April 12, 2004, marked opening day on the Newfoundland Front...

And just 2 days later, more than 145,000 seals had been killed.
And so it appears the 2004 season was a boon for the sealing industry.
The "exact" number of seals ultimately killed totalled 365,971 - more than 15,000 animals over the established quota of 350,000. 95% of them were under just 3 months of age.This doesn't include the "struck and lost" seals though.
Another efficient slaughter of the innocents. And we at Harpseals.org are saddened to the very bottom of our souls...

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