Harpseals.org is a 501(c)(3) Non-Profit Charity Working to End the Slaughter of Harp Seals and Other Seals in Canada and Namibia
THE SEALS WIN AT THE WTO
(November, 25, 2013) The WTO ruled today on the European Union's (EU) ban on imports of seal products from commercial sealing operations. This affects the Canadian seal 'hunt', in which over 339,000 harp seal pups were killed since the import ban was passed in 2009, and the massacre of Cape fur seals (80,000 nursing pups and 6,000 bulls each year) in Namibia.
Canada, Namibia, and Norway challenged this EU ban, alleging that it was an unfair barrier to free trade. The WTO held hearings in the spring of 2013, in which representatives from these countries claimed that the killing is humane and well-regulated.
The European Union responded, with help from NGO's that have monitored the Canadian seal 'hunt', such as IFAW and HSI, providing evidence that the killing is inhumane. The U.S. also testified at the hearings in favor of maintaining the import ban. Read the testimony of third party countries including Mexico, the U.S., and Japan here.
Today, the WTO issued its ruling. "The panel determined that the EU Seal Regime is a technical regulation and that the EU Seal Regime does not violate Article 2.2 of the TBT Agreement because it fulfils the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent, and no alternative measure was demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution to the fulfilment of the objective."
The WTO did raise objections to the exemptions given to certain Inuit (indigenous) communities, a small number of whom are engaged in international trade of seal products. "The panel concluded that the IC [indigenous communities] exception under the EU Seal Regime violates Article I:1 of the GATT 1994 because an advantage granted by the European Union to seal products originating in Greenland (specifically, its Inuit population) is not accorded immediately and unconditionally to the like products originating in Norway."
The panel also objected to the exemption in the EU rule for seal products that are obtained from hunts conducted for purposes of 'marine resource management' (MRM). "With respect to the MRM exception, the panel found that it violates Article III:4 of the GATT 1994 because it accords imported seal products treatment less favourable than that accorded to like domestic seal products. The panel also found that the IC exception and the MRM exception are not justified under Article XX(a) of the GATT 1994 (“necessary to protect public morals”) because they fail to meet the requirements under the chapeau of Article XX (“not applied in a manner that would constitute arbitrary or unjustified discrimination where the same conditions prevail or a disguised restriction on international trade”)."
The summary of the WTO ruling can be found here. The full texts of the ruling are here (400R) and here (Appendices: 400RA1).
Harpseals.org believes that exemptions and exceptions to the EU ban on seal product imports are unnecessary and should be removed from the EU regulations. This will resolve the issues raised by the WTO.
Inuit hunting of seals should be permitted only insofar as it is necessary for the survival of the communities that still engage in subsistence hunting. Trade in seal products by Inuit should come under the EU ban, without exceptions. For more on our take on Inuit sealing read our FAQ's.
Sealing should not be allowed as part of resource management measures. Seals are an important part of the marine ecosystem. They are not the cause of the depletion of fish stocks. The problems that fishermen are seeing around the globe arise from over-fishing; destructive, industrial fishing practices like bottom trawling, long lining, and purse seining; man-made pollution of the oceans with plastic waste, radioactive waste (including the large amount of radioactive wastewater dumped into the Pacific ocean by Japan), and chemical waste, which is building up in the bodies of fish and marine mammals; and climate change, which is acidifying the oceans (causing losses of coral reefs and weakening the shells of crustaceans), changing ocean currents, raising the temperature of the oceans, and melting Arctic, sub-Arctic, and Antarctic ice (which is causing polar bears and ice seals to drown in large numbers).
|We extend our condolences to the people of South Africa, as the nation mourns the loss of Nelson Mandela, the man who brought freedom and equality to the oppressed majority and inspired people all over the world to fight for a just society in which all can share in the fruits of their labors and the responsibilties of self-governance.
|Harpseals.org sends letter signed by 24 scientists and conservationists to South Africa
Long Beach, CA December 2, 2013 - A powerful group of 24 scientists, seal experts and conservationists from all over the world has written to leaders of the South African government asking it to maintain its two-decade-old moratorium on killing Cape fur seals and to consider being the first African nation to introduce a ban on trade in seal products.
South Africa currently facilitates the Namibia Cape fur seal slaughter by engaging in trade in products from this brutal massacre that takes place each year from July to November. The Namibian government allows a handful of sealers to kill 80,000 nursing seal pups and 6,000 bulls. The South African government has discussed a resumption of its own Cape fur seal slaughter, outlawed since 1990, and continues to import and export products from seals killed in Namibia.
|Read the press release here.
As we celebrate the Marine Mammal Protection Act, we ask NMFS to end the targeted killing of sea lions
Oct 21, 2013 - On the 41st anniversary of the signing of the Marine Mammal Protection Act in the U.S., Harpseals.org urges the National Marine Fisheries Service to end the targeted killing of sea lions and harbor seals who eat salmon.
To this date 45 sea lions have been killed and 15 have been sent to zoos. The criteria used to determine whether these pinnipeds are a threat to salmon are far more stringent than the criteria used to determine whether fishermen are a threat to salmon.
According to NMFS, "Sept. 25, 2013: The millionth chinook went over Bonneville Dam yesterday! Record number of fall chinook - over 830,000 - since counts began in 1938."
Despite this, sea lions are being killed for eating just 3 salmon while recreational fishermen are allowed to kill tens of thousands of salmon. On the Columbia River, where salmon survival is threatened by an extensive dam system, each angler is allowed to kill two Pacific salmon per day during a several month season.
In the ocean off Washington state, anglers have a quota of 48,000 chinook salmon and 74,760 coho salmon. This is only the 'recreational fishery.' Read more about these quotas here.
If fishermen can kill tens of thousands of salmon without threatening the survival of these endangered species, why is the consumption of 3 salmon by a sea lion considered a severe enough threat that the NMFS puts this sea lion on the hit list?
Harpseals.org believes that this is a travesty and a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. We call on NMFS to end this program. If the consumption of so few salmon is a threat, the recreational fishery should be closed.
Namibia's Cape fur seal slaughter
The Namibian government authorizes the killing of 80,000 Cape fur seal pups and 6,000 Cape fur seal bulls each year from July into November. This is Namibia's version of a seal massacre and is at least as cruel as Canada's.
In 2010 and 2011, Namibia had the distinction of killing the most seal pups, and in fact, the most marine mammals, of any nation.
This slaughter is horrendously brutal. Sealers corral these seals in a small area on a beach and massacre them in front of each other, pups in front of their mothers. It is one of the most sickening acts of cruelty in the world.
The pups are killed primarily for their fur, and the bulls are killed for their penises (thought to be aphrodesiacs in China).
The legality of this slaughter was challenged in court by Seal Alert's Francois Hugo. Namibia's ombudsman, John Walters, was tasked with the duty to consider the case made by Hugo and decide whether the killing could continue.
Waters produced his report on June 23rd, 2011, and has given the slaughter the green light to continue even though he admits that there are issues in the way in which the killing is conducted..
Read the report and our summary and criticism here.
Millions of Americans finally were awakend to this cruelty thanks to Animal Planet and its report on Sea Shepherd Conservation Society's response to the killing last year. This year Sea Shepherd is working on aerial surveilance of the killing.
Please take action to end the slaughter.
In October 2013, Namibia hosted the Adventure Travel and Tourism Summit and is working to promote tourism to the country all over the world. Please boycott tourism to Namibia and help spread the word about the barbaric seal slaughter that Namibia hosts each year.
Read more about the Cape fur seal massacre here.
Canada's harp seal slaughter 2013
This year, sealers from Newfoundland and Labrador and from the Magdalen Islands of Quebec and Prince Edward Island killed about 90,318 harp seal pups, which is over 21,000 more than last year. All this killing has been paid for by Newfoundland taxpayers.
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.
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.
The seal pups were killed by sealers (Canadian fishermen) on 5 boats as well as land-based sealers.
Harp seal pup. Photo AFP
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 is this slaughter paid for entirely with the Newfoundland tax money (see more on this below), but the Canadian government, via the DFO and Coast Guard, also contributes to this effort with ice breakers and by providing coordinates of the seal herd.
2 + 2 = 5 is a Mistake. Beating defenseless seals to death is a Violent Crime
The case of three teens who beat to death 65 grey seal pups on Prince Edward Island has been heard in a PEI courtroom.
These three teenagers clubbed the pups and then left them to die over the course of many hours on a PEI beach earlier this year.
The "Court was told it was not an alcohol-fuelled attack of savage youth, but a senseless and stupid mistake..."
The three teens were sentenced by the Hon. Nancy Orr, Judge of the Provincial Court of Prince Edward Island.
Harpseals.org is saddened to report that these three individuals were sentenced only to probation. They will not serve one day in jail for their brutal crimes.
The message that Judge Nancy Orr of PEI's Provincial Court sent to these three individuals and the broader community in issuing this slap-on-the-wrist sentence is that the lives and suffering of non-human animals is insignificant. Their punishment is the same as one would expect if these three individuals committed the crime of vandalism.
Harpseals.org has a new TV commercial. Help us air it across the country!
Canada's seal 'hunt' to be 100% subsidized by the Newfoundland (Canada) provincial government again
Last year, with world markets almost entirely closed to seal pelts and other seal products, the provincial government of Newfoundland, Canada took CAN$3.6 million of Newfoundland tax money and allocated it to a foreign company, Carino, which is based in Norway, in order to entice the company to buy pelts from sealers.
As a result about 70,000 seal pups were bludgeoned and shot to death solely to stockpile their pelts (adding to large, existing stockpiles).
This year, again the Newfoundland goverment is allocating the same amount of tax money to Carino thus ensuring tens of thousands more seal pups will be killed...for nothing.
Canada's government in the past has vehemently argued that the seal 'hunt' was not significantly subsidized, but was a 'market-based' hunt. No longer is Canada concerned about being seen as a government that throws tax dollars into a bloody, useless massacre. The seal 'hunt' has become an even bigger black mark on Canada, as it desperately attempts to keep a dying industry alive.
Sealing interests brought a case before the General Court of the European Union - again - in an effort to overturn the EU ban on seal product imports
The Canadian Fur Institute led a group that included a handful of Inuit traders and a Scottish manufacturer of men's purses made from animal skins (called 'sporrans').
Case T-526/10 was virtually a repeat of the case T-18/10 RII-INTP. In fact, in their pleas, the plaintiffs stated that they “repeat the arguments put forward in support of their claims in Case T-18/10.”
They added only the claim that the Commission has abused its powers, aiming in reality to block any sales of pelts in the European Union, without exception.
The Court handed down its ruling April 25, 2013: The case has been dismissed, leaving the EU ban on seal pelts intact.
The Court said, "The General Court confirms that the objective of the basic regulation, which is the improvementof the conditions of functioning of the internal market, taking into account the protection of animal welfare, cannot be satisfactorily achieved by action undertaken only in the Member States and requires action at EU level."
Read the full press release from the General Court here.
WTO hears complaint by Canada and Norway against the European Union ban on seal product imports
The World Trade Organization (WTO) has heard the first and second round of arguments in the case brought by Canada and Norway against the 2009 ban on imports of seal pelts and other seal products into the European Union. Canada and Norway filed a complaint with the WTO in an attempt to force the European Union to repeal the ban, which has contributed to the closing of worldwide markets for seal pelts.
Canada has tried to claim that the seal slaughter is humane. But it has to counter direct evidence to the contrary that was obtained by EU representatives. "Canada, while beginning with a broad-based defense of sealing as humane, then stakes its case on the notion that things have improved considerably since most of the evidence mustered by the EU was gathered. The period mentioned by Canada is five years, no accident perhaps since it was five years ago that the deliberative process occurred that led to the EU ban. Canada seems to be implicitly acknowledging that its practices were not up to snuff from the time of growing public concern about the seal hunt in the 60s through 2008 but once the EU ban was in place, or about to be put into place, it suggests it began to pull up its socks," wrote Robert Howse, the Lloyd C. Nelson Professor of International Law at NYU School of Law. (See his blog with more from the WTO hearings here.)
A ban based on moral considerations is legitimate under the governing laws of the WTO. But Canada has argued that opinion polls that were considered by the EU in deciding to ban seal imports were not sufficient to determine the public sense of morality regarding sealing. "Canada’s reasoning is that the opinion polls indicate that the attitudes of EU citizens are based on limited knowledge of the Canadian hunt. One only wonders what Canada would say about the beliefs of Hindus in India about cows, if it were now to go on to challenge that country’s restrictions on bovine meat. Would it bring scientists to the panel hearing to “prove” that it is unreasonable for Hindus to think of cows as deserving treatment as “sacred” animals? In fact, the Appellate Body makes it very clear in US-Gambling and China-Publications that opinion polls aren’t required, nor a Habermas-type ideal-speech situation, in order for ”public morals” to be invoked. The moral views don’t have to be those of everyone in society, and the government doesn’t have to quiz the populace to determine their rationality or level of knowledge in order to enact measures based on public morals," according to Prof. Howse.
"After continuously insisting that what is humane or not is a matter for science and not for uniformed public opinion, Canada now said that the term “humane” had certain “subjective” qualities and that a “careful scientist” scientist would refrain from making a determination of what is “humane” or not, presumably leaving that to the value judgments of politicians or the public," Howse wrote.
In addition to testimony from Canada and Norway, the WTO heard from other countries (third parties), including the U.S. (in favor of the EU seal import ban), Iceland and Japan (against the ban), and Namibia (killer of Cape fur seal pups) gave it's testimony in secret.
On April 29, 2013, the WTO held the second round of hearings and a public viewing. The Canadian and Norwegian contingent again spread misinformation and claimed that the slaughter was humane.
Take action to let WTO ministers know where you stand on this issue.
We will keep you up to date regarding the outcome of these hearings.
Take Action for Seals
Tell Canada to 'Move On'!
Please call Right Hon. Stephen Harper, Prime Minister: 613-992-4211
and Hon. Keith Ashfield, Fisheries Minister: 613-992-1067
and Hon. Ed Fast, Minister of International Trade: 613-995-0183
Canadians, please call the Parliament switchboard toll-free (Canada): 1-866-599-4999 and request to speak to your MP as well. You can also find your MP's contact number here.
Please tell them:
MOVE ON, CANADA! The world has said 'No' to the bloody pelts stolen from defenseless harp seal pups. Now, it's time for Canada to accept the world's condemnation of this massacre and 'Move On'. Move on to fund a buyout of sealing licenses. Move on to support training for these fishermen/sealers who are finding less and less work as fishermen as the ocean ecology is decimated (by them).
Use our automated emails to contact Canada's leaders, too.
Join or organize a protest or other event to spread the word, and help put an end to this atrocity forever.
Help the Seals - Boycott Canadian Seafood
How can you help end the slaughter of seal pups in Canada? The best way is to join the boycott of Canadian seafood.
Harpseals.org conducted studies to assess the effectiveness of the Canadian seafood boycott campaign. We have found that Americans are very willing to join the boycott. In fact, two months after viewing our edited 30 second TV spot, over 45% of people polled in our nationwide study are willing to participate in the Canadian seafood boycott: over 25% are boycotting Canadian seafood or intend to boycott Canadian seafood; another 21% say that they would join the boycott if they knew how. After they learn about the Candian seal slaughter, what we have found is that they simply need to know how to identify Canadian seafood.
Harpseals.org aims to inform Americans about the seal hunt and provide Americans with the knowledge they need to help end the slaughter - by boycotting Canadian seafood. Now we have a new, updated TV commercial. Please help us conduct a national advertising campaign for the seals.
In addition to boycotting Canadian seafood, please boycott tourism to Canada, especially to the Maritimes provinces.
Canada's Senate approves massive cull of grey seals
"If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience." George Bernard Shaw.
Dr. Jeff Hutchings, University of Halifax
Once again, Canada is blaming the seals for the loss of the cod population. In the past, the harp seals have been the scapegoats; now it's the grey seals. At the behest of the Canadian fishing industry, the Canadian Senate has now approved a massive cull of grey seals, despite testimony from scientists warning that such an extreme cull could have dangerous unintended consequences.
"One cannot credibly predict from a science perspective whether a cull of grey seals would have a positive impact on cod or negative impact on cod … or no impact whatsoever," said Dr. Jeff Hutchings of the University of Halifax..
Of an estimated population of 104,000 grey seals in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, the Canadian Senate has approved a plan to kill 70,000 seals, or 2/3 of the estimated population.
Read more about this cull here.
Read Sen. Mac Harb's response to this report here.
Read the Senate's complete report here.
Read a letter summarizing the problems with this plan here.
Read about the interaction of seals and cod in the ocean ecosystem here.
Take action here.
NOAA Fisheries lists ice seals as threatened, endangered
Dec. 21, 2012
A ringed seal pup peeks out from its protective snow cave near Kotzebue, Alaska. Photo: Mike Cameron, NOAA's National Marine Mammal Laboratory
After two years of study and public comment, the U.S. agency, NOAA fisheries, announced that it was listing four subspecies of ringed seals and two distinct population segments of bearded seals under the Endangered Species Act.
NOAA will list the Beringia and Okhotsk distinct population segments of bearded seals and the Arctic, Okhotsk, and Baltic subspecies of ringed seals as threatened. It will list the Ladoga subspecies of ringed seals as endangered.
The reasons NOAA cites for the listings are
• Under the ESA, a threatened species is likely to become endangered within the foreseeable future throughout all or a significant portion of its range. An endangered species is in danger of extinction throughout all or a significant portion of its range.
• Ringed and bearded seals are particularly dependent upon ice and snow for survival. Many aspects of the ringed and bearded seal’s life cycles depend on the availability of suitable ice, and for ringed seals snow cover, at the right time of the year in areas with sufficient food.
• Climate models consistently project diminishing ice and snow cover at least through the current century, with regional variation in the timing and severity of those losses.
• Although ringed and bearded seals are currently numerous in Alaska, NMFS has concluded that the changes in ice, and for ringed seals snow cover, are likely to lead to population declines in the foreseeable future and pose significant long-term threats to the persistence of these seals.
Contrast this with the actions of the Canadian government in managing the ice seals (i.e., harp seals) in its waters: instead of designating the species as protected, it spends millions of taxpayer dollars to massacre the seals.
Read more about seal conservation and the effects of climate change on seals.
|Victory for seals!
Natural Habitat Adventures has been operating seal tours from the Magdalen Islands of Quebec, one of the two main regions from which sealers hail, for years. This company paid sealers to take unsuspecting tourists to see the seals just weeks before the same sealers would kill the seals.
After taking this tour and discovering that the company was using sealers as guides, seal tourist Yvonne embarked on a journey of justice. With the help of Harpseals.org in exposing the truth and the expertise of the Better Business Bureau, we have achieved an important victory for the seals as Natural Habitat Adventures decided to cancel these tours as long as operating them would support sealers. Read more here.
A Brief Background on Canada's Seal Hunt
Canadian sealer clubbing seals.
(c) HSUS / Brian Skerry
Each year, in the harp seal slaughter, a few thousand Canadian fishermen bludgeon and shoot two-week to two-month-old seals, hook and drag them and skin many of these pups while they are still alive and conscious. They then sell the skins to European and Asian furriers. The bodies of these seals are left to rot.
In this competitive commercial slaughter, each sealer charges across the ice floes in an effort to kill as many seal pups as he can before someone else gets the pups. In 2008, sealers on longliners on the Front (the second phase of the seal hunt, off the coasts of Newfoundland and Labrador) killed their quota of seals in just two days.
This atmosphere discourages adherence to rules and regulations, such as checking for blinking eyes before skinning the seal pups. Observers of the hunt have documented hundreds of violations of these regulations, but the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO), which regulates the seal hunt, has rarely levied any charges against the perpetrators.
Lone harp seal pup among dozens of harp seal carcasses left behind by sealers.
(c) SF Bay / Indymedia
In 2008, four sealers were killed and four sealing vessels were destroyed in the treacherous icy waters. The Canadian Coast Guard rescued several sealers (at Canadian taxpayers' expense), but some sealers died in the attempted rescue. Read the news reports about the 2008 slaughter here.
The slaughter of seals in Canada has taken place for hundreds of years. Today, this annual ritual offers so little economic value to the sealers, and even to the sealing boat captains (whose take is usually 50%), that many stayed home in 2008.
To learn more about the history of sealing in Canada and the modern seal hunt, visit our About the Hunt section.
One person who has observed the slaughter of seal pups for many years and who was born and raised in the sealing province of Newfoundland and Labrador is Rebecca Aldworth. In her journal, she described what she saw on the ice floes:
"As we passed one large red vessel, we saw sealers jump off the side onto the ice. They ran towards a single live seal pup, hakapiks in hand.
The pup, sensing danger, tried desperately to crawl towards the edge of the water. But the two men bearing down on her were faster. One sealer struck her on the side, then twice again on the head. He grabbed her hind flippers and pulled her back across the ice, stopping to club her twice more. He grabbed her front flipper and turned her over.
But then the second sealer kicked the wounded pup with his boot. Seeing a reaction, he motioned to the first sealer, who clubbed her four more times on the head.
Not to be outdone, the second sealer grabbed his hakapik and clubbed the baby seal once more. He flipped her over and began to cut her open -- only to roll her back over so the first sealer could club her three more times. This poor baby seal was clubbed thirteen times in total."
How Harpseals.org Works for Seals
Snow crabs from Canada are being boycotted.
Harpseals.org provides extensive information on all aspects of the seal hunt, so that individuals can understand what takes place, when the seal hunt occurs, how the sealers kill the seals, where the killing occurs, who the sealers are, and why the killing continues.
Explore the site through the links on the left and top of this page.
We also work tirelessly to end the slaughter and provide information and assistance to seal activists all over the world. Our primary strategy to end the annual Canadian seal hunt is the Canadian seafood boycott. This boycott puts pressure on the sealers themselves and the industry behind the slaughter.
We invite you to use our website to learn about the seal hunt, and we hope you will join us in working to end it.