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Seal Hunt News 2007


Final ice-bound longliners close to freedom

Last Updated: Thursday, May 3, 2007 | 2:24 PM NT
CBC News

The Canadian Coast Guard hopes on Thursday to free the final three fishing vessels that have been stuck in ice off Newfoundland's northeast coast since mid-March.

Longliner Sealing Boat Stuck in Ice
Longliner sealing boat stuck in an ice pan (c) CBC

The coast guard was confronted in March with a field of ice that stretched all the way from Quebec's north shore, around Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula and along hundreds of kilometres of coastline to the top of the Avalon Peninsula.

At one point, more than 100 longliners had become trapped in ice after returning from the seal hunt where most of the quota was filled on March 13. Some vessels were stuck before the hunt started, while the heavy ice prevented others from getting close to seal herds.

Dean Patey, skipper of Patey's Venture, one of the last three boats still in ice off Fogo Island, said coast guard icebreakers are escorting all three vessels.

"It's been very long and very, very tense moments sometimes but apart from that now, you know, what a long time now — 22 days on a boat, beating around," Patey said. "It's not too good."

Patey said he and his crew were not able to obtain seals. He said they are hoping to receive another opportunity from federal fisheries officials, who have made sporadic subsequent openings in the seal hunt as the remaining quota in the region are taken.



Sealers stuck in ice pass the time with cards, movies

Ken Meaney, CanWest News Service
Published: Thursday, May 03, 2007

Sealers stuck in ice off the coast of Newfoundland, some for more than three weeks now, are passing their time playing cards, sleeping and watching movies like Pirates of the Caribbean.

But while pirate Capt. Jack Sparrow was marooned in warmer climes, the crew of the Connie James are stuck in 50 kilometres of solid ice.

For them, Wednesday - the 22nd day of their icy captivity - looked an awful lot like the previous 21 days.

"Ice, as far as the eye can see, nothing but ice," said Chris Rose, one of five crew on the James, a 15-metre wooden fishing boat. It's one of three vessels still immobilized 140 kilometres southeast of St. Anthony on Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula.

"The ice is really thick; we don't drift around," he said, surprisingly upbeat about the situation.

Four other sealing ships were being escorted to open water by a fleet of Canadian Coast Guard icebreakers, and were expected to be clear of the ice by the end of Wednesday. Persistent northeasterly winds have packed ice into the shoreline and built up progressively during the spring seal hunt. It had trapped up to 100 ships, some with hull damage, at one point within the last month. Severe ice along Newfoundland's northeast coast is normal, the coast guard says.

Rose, 27, a fisherman for 10 years, says the ice is the worst he's seen. He said he has seen two or three ships that were lifted right out of the water by the ice.



Heavy ice keeps dozens of vessels from seal hunt

Last Updated: Friday, April 13, 2007 | 5:08 PM NT
CBC News

Compressed ice prevented scores of sealers in southern Labrador and off Newfoundland's northeast coast from joining the seal hunt on Friday.

Brian Penney - Canadian Coast Guard
Brian Penney said the coast guard has three icebreakers attempting to help ice-bound longliners.

The Canadian Coast Guard was using three icebreakers on Friday to assist longliners, some of which were having trouble even leaving port.

"We just can't get into ports at this time because of heavy ice," Capt. Brian Penney told CBC News on Friday morning.

Hours later, Penney said conditions had not changed. The coast guard estimated that as many as 60 longliners had been stuck in ice.

The hunt was scheduled to open on Thursday, but had been delayed because of ice conditions off the Northern Peninsula. Among those affected are sealers from southern Labrador, who have been unable to travel across the Strait of Belle Isle.

Todd Russell, the Liberal MP for Labrador, said the Department of Fisheries and Oceans should have delayed the opening for a longer period of time.

"I tell you, it's been very, very slow — very hard on the boats," Russell told CBC News.

"Once you get out there, you have to come back, and there doesn't seem to be any slacking on the ice conditions. It's hell right now."

DFO was expected to close the hunt Friday night, so that pelts could be counted.

In response to ice concerns, DFO said Labrador sealers will be allowed to hunt on Sunday, starting at 6 a.m.

Officials are expected to decide on Saturday when — or even if — the rest of the hunt will reopen.

The hunt off northeastern Newfoundland — at an area that is traditionally called the Front — constitutes the largest part of the Canadian seal hunt, with about 70 per cent of the quota of 270,000 seals set aside for this phase.

The Front attracts less attention than the hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where hakapiks are commonly used. At the Front, the vast majority of seals are shot by rifle.

The harp seal hunt is an annual magnet for controversy, although this year's hunt brought fewer headlines than in past years. In 2006, the Humane Society of the United States scored a public-relations coup by bringing pop superstar Paul McCartney to Prince Edward Island to observe seal pups in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.



860 seals killed in the first phase of Canada hunt, thousands fewer than previous years

The Associated Press
Wednesday, April 4, 2007

TORONTO: Thousands fewer seals were killed in the first phase of Canada's controversial hunt compared to previous years, indicating that melting ice has depleted much of the herd in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, an official said.

About 860 seals were killed during the three-day first phase that ended Wednesday night, said Fisheries Department spokesman Phil Jenkins, calling the catch "very low."

Unusually warm weather has melted or thinned out much of the ice in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, drowning thousands of baby seals, Jenkins said. Seals cannot swim during the first few weeks of life.

The quota for all three phases of this year's seal hunt is 270,000 seals. That is 65,000 fewer than last year, a change imposed mainly because of the toll from the ice conditions.

Bloody Ice Pan
Blood soaks through a ice pan in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, Canada, where a harp seal was killed Saturday March 25, 2006. The annual harp seal hunt started today where some 325,000 harp seals will be harvested. (AP Photo/CP,Jonathan Hayward) Observers were not allowed to document the killing in the southern Gulf in 2007.

The government estimated the seal population in Canada at about 5.5 million in 2004. The Fisheries Department will conduct the next seal population survey next year to assess the impact of the ice conditions.

Jenkins said there were about 1.8 million seals in the 1970s. The population rebounded after Canada started managing its seal hunts.

"It's a conservation success story," Jenkins said. "It's too bad that it's drowned out by emotional rhetoric of animal and welfare groups."

The largest concentration of seals in the Gulf is in the northern part, where the second phase of the hunt began Wednesday. Ice conditions are normal in the north, and thousands of seals are expected to be killed there.

Bad weather and poor visibility limited the hunt to about 12 boats at the start of the second phase, Jenkins said.

About 70 percent of the seals sought in Canadian waters will be taken in the third stage off northern Newfoundland. An opening date has yet to be announced.

Animal welfare groups have condemned the government's decision to allow a hunt in the southern region.

Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society criticized the government for not issuing observer permits for the hunt in the southern Gulf.

"To us, that says there's something the Canadian government didn't want the public to see," Aldworth said. "In this case, I believe it was the image of just a few seal pups clinging to tiny pans of ice and seal hunters still coming with clubs and guns and shooting and killing every last pup they could find."

Fishermen sell seal pelts mostly for the fashion industry in Norway, Russia and China, as well as blubber for oil, earning about $78 (€58.4) per seal.

The hunt has been condemned by some celebrities, notably Paul McCartney, as well as French film legend Brigitte Bardot and actress Pamela Anderson.

The Canadian government and isolated fishing communities say they need the supplemental income because cod stocks have dwindled. The slaughter of some 335,000 seals in 2006 brought about $25 million (€18.7 million).

The United States has banned Canadian seal products since 1972, and the European Union banned the white pelts of baby seals in 1983.

Registered hunters are not allowed to kill the seal pups before they molt their downy white fur, typically when they are 10 days to three weeks old.


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