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* Sealing and fishing violations net convictions

* Poll shows Canadians oppose hunt subsidies

* EU criticizes observer rules

* Canada to deport protesters

* Protesters arrested on protest ship

* Protesters spark anger

* Protesters will be charged

* Activists allege cover up

* Sealers, protesters head for ice floes

* Sealers' quota, price concerns

* Fishermen want higher grey seal quota



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Seals, Sealing, Fishing, and the Environment

North Pole ever closer to having no ice
Scientists seek causes for decline

Last updated September 16, 2008 10:54 p.m. PT


For Arctic expert Ignatius Rigor, this is one bet he'd rather lose.

The University of Washington scientist has studied the quirks of the North Pole for years. He knew that as of this spring, the ice up there was unusually thin and brittle. The planet, he knows, is warming. He figured he was safe in his wager with fellow polar gurus that the area of ice would have shrunk to a record low this summer, beating last year's astonishing disappearing act.

The ice, he thought, was a goner.

"I expected it to disintegrate," Rigor said.

The area of Arctic Ocean covered by the ice has shrunk one-third below what's been normal over the past three decades. It's the first year that both the Northwest Passage over the top of North America and Russia's Northeast Passage are free of ice, environmentalists pointed out this week.

Researchers still are waiting to see if 2007's dismal record will be shattered, though Tuesday it appeared that 2008 would be in second place.

Meanwhile, Rigor and his colleagues at the UW, a global leader in sea-ice research, are tracking another surprise development: Their life's chilly passion has become an unexpectedly hot topic in this year's presidential race.

GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin has cranked up the heat on the frigid North. The Alaska governor filed a lawsuit against Endangered Species Act protections for polar bears, is urging expanded oil exploration in the ecologically sensitive Arctic climes and has expressed doubts over the role of people in causing climate change.

These latest developments make even more important the role of scientists who are unraveling the causes behind what's chipping away at the ice floes in the summer and stifling its regrowth in the winter.

Rigor and his colleagues at the UW's Applied Physics Laboratory, including Jamie Morison and Ron Lindsay, are all troubled by how fast the Arctic ice has disappeared.

"The long-term trend is very disturbing," said Lindsay, a climatologist who has done extensive work on models that predict the ice loss. "There's a lot of thin ice up there."

"In recent years it's gotten a lot worse," echoed Morison, an oceanographer. "In 2007, it pulled back so there was no ice (at the pole). I mean, it was open water."
Ice-free North Pole?

Morison can't say exactly what has tipped the Arctic sea ice toward its rapid decline. But after regular research trips to the pole over the past 34 years, he's well acquainted with how it has changed.

In the mid-1980s and early 1990s, he remembers flying over the floes and searching and searching for a patch of smooth, young ice on which his small plane could safely land. But all that was found were lumpy hills of older ice.

That hasn't been a problem lately.

"When we were out this year, this was easy," he said. "All the ice was 2 meters thick because more of it had formed just over the winter."

He'd been so concerned about the disappearance of ice last summer that he asked a colleague to run a computer model for him to predict the whereabouts of the ice for his fieldwork in March and April.

"I didn't know if there was going to be any ice left in the North Pole when we got back in the spring," Morison said.

The ice was there, but the buoys that he launched to take measurements of air and water temperatures, salinity, ice melt and other conditions have traveled across the Arctic Ocean much faster than he expected, buffeted by the wind and zipping along with the melting floes. The quick trip means fewer data points are collected for the scientists.

There are lots of reasons that sea ice is vanishing. In the summer, endless daylight and warmer air and water temperatures melt the ice. Wind blows the frozen chunks away from the North Pole, past Greenland and into the Atlantic Ocean. The condition of the ice at the beginning of the summer is a huge factor; this year's ice was young and fragile, making it melt faster and blow more quickly out of the Arctic than if it was old, thick ice.

Then there's climate change.

Heat-trapping greenhouse gases are warming the planet and the oceans, leading to earlier melting. That also means that the refreezing of the ice in the fall and winter starts later. Some experts also suspect that the warming could be influencing "Arctic oscillation" -- a climate pattern akin to El Niño -- that affects the winds that shove the ice into the Atlantic.

Another problem is that many of these conditions feed on each other, making it hard to recover thicker, longer-lasting ice. When the sun shines on the pole the white ice will reflect its radiation. But if the ice is gone, the rays heat the dark ocean, causing the ice around it to melt. That creates more open water that soaks up more radiation.

"It's hard to see how the ice might come back," Rigor said, "unless we are able to curb the greenhouse gases."

The grimmest predictions forecast that the Arctic could be ice-free in summer sometime in the next decade.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, an organization of experts orchestrated by the United Nations and World Meteorological Organization, puts that milestone around 2070 or later.

The last time that experts say the Arctic was free of summertime ice was 125,000 years ago, a time when carbon dioxide levels were much lower than they are now. The ice is expected to continue to return in the winter indefinitely.

Morison hopes the summer ice sticks around for a while, at least. He's still not had his fill of the North Pole and enchanting Arctic blue of its twilight hours. Its mysteries beckon to the polar investigator.

"There are always new questions that are popping up," he said. "The driving emotion is curiosity about what is happening, what is going on. It still is an adventure, you still get a rush going out there, trying to solve the problems and fly around.

"I've got a lot of unfinished business."
Arctic natives threatened

When Dirk Kempthorne, secretary of the Department of Interior, granted endangered species protections to polar bears in May, the UW's Rigor helped him make his case.

Kempthorne presented slides of Rigor's data during a national press conference announcing his decision. They showed the sheets of ice covering the North Pole in September thinning and shrinking over time.

He said that the bears are dependent on this ice for their survival, putting them at serious risk of extinction.

Despite some mistakes in what Kempthorne said -- some of the data came from buoys as well as satellites -- Rigor was pleased.

"To be able to contribute to something like that, to have your work help decide public policy, is great," he said.

Environmentalists now are pushing for similar protections for ribbon, ring, bearded and spotted seals.

"They're all completely dependent on sea ice for giving birth and rearing their pups. As the sea ice melts away, the seal pups are separated from their mothers and forced into the icy waters before they're big enough and strong enough to survive," said Shaye Wolf, a Center for Biological Diversity biologist.

Earlier this month, the federal government announced it would consider protections for three of the four seal species.

The ice research is a boon to human residents, too.

"The people who rely on the ice for their subsistence pay close attention to the research," said Glenn Sheehan, executive director of the Barrow Arctic Science Consortium in Alaska.

"They want to know where the ice is when it's not in sight. They want to know how it's moving and when it's likely to be back."

Native peoples venture onto the ice in spring to hunt for bowhead whales. They make trails from the shore out onto the floes and haul their multiton catches across the frozen platforms.

"The hunters tell me that the ice typically has been forming up later and later for years now," Sheehan said. "If it forms up later, maybe it doesn't form up as thick and stable."

The situation is only expected to worsen.

Scientists said that a dramatic change in the wind patterns that would keep more of the ice in the Arctic could help, at least granting a short-term reprieve. Or a more cataclysmic event such as a volcanic eruption spewing ash that shades the sun for a while could slow the melt.

"I'm quite alarmed that the climate system is changing rapidly," Lindsay said. "The biological systems, including people, are not used to a rapidly changing climate."

Even if greenhouse gas emissions stopped tomorrow, the pollutants linger for decades, trapping the heat.

Rigor won't feel so bad if he loses the gentleman's bet and the ice survives. But who knows what next year will bring.

"I'm hoping our society turns things around before things get so warm that all the ice is gone," he said.

P-I reporter Lisa Stiffler can be reached at 206-448-8042 or lisastiffler@seattlepi.com. Read her blog on the environment at datelineearth.com.



Canadians Speak Out on the Commercial Seal Hunt: Not with our Money!

Published: July 15, 2008

OTTAWA, ONTARIO - (Marketwire - July 15, 2008) - A new nation-wide poll released this week, conducted by Environics Research on behalf of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), shows that not only do Canadians want the commercial seal hunt stopped, but they also want the government to stop spending tax dollars defending it overseas. "The Canadian public is saying enough is enough." said Sheryl Fink, Senior Researcher for IFAW. "Canadians simply do not approve of the federal government continuing to waste their hard-earned tax dollars on the commercial seal hunt."

When asked their opinion about the commercial seal hunt, 79% of Canadians polled said the government should stop spending money and effort defending the commercial hunt and focus on more important issues instead.

"The recent actions by the federal government to defend and support the commercial seal hunt are completely at odds with what the Canadian public actually wants" noted Fink.

Last week, Fisheries Ambassador Loyola Sullivan acknowledged that the Canadian government has recently held between 170 and 180 meetings defending the seal hunt in Europe alone. Yet, three-quarters (75%) of Canadians said they were opposed to the use of tax dollars to send delegations to Europe to promote Canada's commercial seal hunt.

"The government of Canada is clearly misrepresenting the level of Canadian public support for the commercial seal hunt to the European Union," said Fink.

With a trade ban announcement on seal products expected from the European Commission this month, the poll found that an overwhelming majority (86%) of Canadians believe the EU should be allowed to restrict trade in seal products, if it so chooses. In addition, those polled also said they opposed the Canadian government's recent move to challenge trade bans in Belgium and the Netherlands at the World Trade Organization.

"Instead of wasting tax dollars on a dying industry, Canadians want the federal government to invest in sustainable, long-term opportunities that befit all Canadians."

Details of the polling results are provided in a report available at http://www.ifaw.ca.

Cell.: 613-852-0589

Copyright © 2008, NewsBlaze, Daily News



EU official criticizes Canada for blocking seal hunt observers

Peter O'Neil, Europe Correspondent
Published: Thursday, April 17, 2008

Stavros Dimas
EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas listens to journalist at a press conference 16 November 2006 during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the UN complex in Nairobi.AFP/Getty

PARIS - Canada fumbled its chance to prove once and for all that its critics are wrong in asserting that the seal hunt is cruel and inhumane, Europe's environment czar said Thursday.

EU environment commissioner Stavros Dimas listens to journalist at a press conference 16 November 2006 during the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) at the UN complex in Nairobi.AFP/Getty

European Union Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said the Canadian government, which complains that the EU is being manipulated by anti-sealing groups spreading misinformation, blocked a team of European experts sent on a fact-finding mission during the 2007 hunt.

"If a team of experts wasn't able to look at what is happening, and how it is being conducted, why do they (the Canadian government) claim that other evidence is not correct?" Dimas, in Paris to attend a major climate change conference, told Canwest News Service.

"I don't know whether it was bad faith. I don't think so. But the fact is they were prevented from doing what they were going to do."

The comment from Dimas, who said he will present legislation soon to ban all seal product imports into Europe, represented a two-pronged attack Thursday on the embattled Canadian industry.

The second assault was launched domestically when Green Leader Elizabeth May denounced the hunt and called for its permanent closure.

She said the hunt is "inherently inhumane," dangerous for workers, produces little economic benefit and hurts Canada's reputation abroad.

"Taxpayers' dollars have been wasted on a grand show for the European Union, complete with an expensive propaganda campaign and lobbying effort," May said in a statement.

She also criticized the recent arrest of crew members and detention of the Farley Mowat, a hunt observation vessel operated by Paul Watson's Sea Shepherd Conservation Society.

Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn shot back that May "has chosen to parrot propaganda from a militant organization which jeopardized the safety of sealers instead of standing up for Canadians in coastal communities."

Canadian Fisheries Conservation Ambassador Loyola Sullivan, who has just returned from a tour of European capitals, said the EU delegation announced the trip at the last minute and was denied access to the 2007 hunt for safety reasons.

"We entered into the heaviest period of ice you can imagine. We had 100 vessels stranded. We had vessels lost in ice. They had to be airlifted to save human lives," Sullivan said in an interview.

"And it wasn't practical to use our fisheries patrol vessels or coast guard vessels to move people out to the ice when we had human life at stake."

He said EU delegations would always be welcome to observe the hunt under normal circumstances, and lamented the body's apparent intention of imposing a ban without being fully informed.

The Canadian government has pointed to a 2006 anti-seal hunt resolution that passed overwhelmingly in the European Parliament. It declared that almost half of harvested seals are skinned alive. Canadian officials note that this claim was refuted last December by the EU's own European Food Safety Authority.

That same report also recommended that sealers bleed seals after they are clubbed or shot if there is any indication the seals aren't dead prior to being skinned. That step was introduced by the Canadian government as a requirement for this year's hunt.

The EU's apparent determination to impose a ban unless there is irrefutable proof that all harvested seals are killed quickly and humanely is neither realistic nor fair, Sullivan said.

Imposing those standards broadly "would shut down every wild hunt and every slaughterhouse in the world."

Sullivan said the EU, despite promising to make a decision based on facts rather than emotion, appears to be denying Canada "due process" to defend the hunt.

"I think it doesn't speak well for democracy."


Canada to deport 2 seal hunt protesters

Published: April 16, 2008 at 4:04 PM

SYDNEY, Nova Scotia, April 16 (UPI) -- Two European seal hunt protesters arrested last week for being too close to a Canadian ship off Nova Scotia are being deported, one of them said Wednesday.

In Sydney, Peter Hammarstedt, 23, the first officer of the anti-sealing vessel, the Farley Mowat, told the Canwest News Service he will be sent back to his native Sweden on Friday. He said co-accused Alexander Cornelissen of Amsterdam and the ship's captain would also be flown back to the Netherlands.

"Once again the thing we're being accused of doing is allegedly being within a half a nautical mile of someone skinning a seal alive, and for that Canada deports us," Hammarstedt said.

The men appeared in court Monday and were freed on $10,000 bail and ordered to stay away from the seal hunt.

They and 15 other members of the Washington-based Sea Shepherd Society were aboard the Dutch-registered ship when police and federal officials boarded and arrested them.

The ship is moored in Sydney, temporarily impounded by the Canadian government, the report said.




Two arrested as authorities board seal hunt protest ship

Sealer About to Strike Seal
A sealer chases a harp seal with his hakapik on the ice off the northwest coast of Newfoundland, April 11, 2008. Paul Darrow/Reuters

Sat Apr 12, 2008 5:47pm EDT

TORONTO (Reuters) - Authorities have boarded a ship that was protesting against the annual seal hunt and arrested its captain and first officer, the government said on Saturday.

Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn said in a statement that the vessel, the Farley Mowat, had been boarded to "help ensure the safe and orderly conduct of the seal hunt."

But the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, which owns the ship, said the vessel had been outside Canada's 12-mile (19-km) territorial limit.

"This is an act of war," Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd said in a statement. "The Canadian government has just sent an armed boarding party onto a Dutch registered yacht in international waters and has seized the ship."

The annual seal hunt off Canada's Atlantic coast has long been the target of protest groups who each year broadcast graphic pictures and videos in their efforts to force Canada to stop shooting or clubbing seals to death.

The furs are made into coats and other clothes, and there is a growing market for seal oil, which is high in omega-3 fatty acid.

The government, which this year set a quota of 275,000 animals from an estimated 5.5 million, says the cull of young harp seals safeguards fishing stocks and guarantees a livelihood for people in the area.

The government said last week it had charged the captain and first officer of the Farley Mowat for getting too close to the hunters and obstructing fisheries officers.

The ministry released a picture that it said showed the Sea Shepherd closing in on a hunting ship.

"The government of Canada has taken action to protect the safety and livelihoods of Canadian sealers by boarding and seizing the Farley Mowat to arrest its Captain and Chief Officer for alleged violations of Canada's Marine Mammal Regulations," Hearn said on Saturday.

"We will continue to protect sealers while ensuring the sustainable and humane management of the hunt so it continues to provide economic opportunities for Canada's coastal communities in the future."

Last month, several hunters died when their vessel hit ice and capsized in the icy waters of the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

(Reporting by Janet Guttsman; Editing by Alan Elsner)


Canadian seal hunt protestors spark anger

April 4, 2008

OTTAWA (AFP) — Animal rights activists came under fire Friday for comparing the deaths of four sealers to the fate of hunted seals, and face possible charges for interfering in Canada's annual seal cull.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society said in a statement that "the deaths of four sealers is a tragedy," but added "the slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups is an even greater tragedy."

Green Party leader Elizabeth May immediately quit the society's advisory board, while Fisheries and Oceans Minister Loyola Hearn said he would "pursue charges" against the seal hunt protestors.

"We will not tolerate the reckless antics of the Sea Shepherd Society," said Hearn, alleging the society's trawler the Farley Mowat this week "attacked" a Coast Guard vessel and endangered sealers' lives.

"We will protect our sealers," he told parliament.

The Sea Shepherd clan countered that it "has broken no laws" and asserted the right of its Farley Mowat crew to navigate freely outside Canada's 12-mile limit to document the "cruel" slaughter of seals.

Sealers routinely face shifting ice, high winds, freezing temperatures and unpredictable seas during the controversial seal hunting season which kicked off a week ago on March 28.

One vessel was forced to return to port last week after being hit by huge chunks of ice.

On Saturday, a boat accident left three sealers dead and one missing. The 12-meter (40-foot) trawler encountered steering problems and later capsized while it was being towed back to port by the Coast Guard.

But Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson said "these men are sadistic baby killers."

"They are vicious killers who are now pleading for sympathy because some of their own died while engaged in a viciously brutal activity."

"One of the sealers was quoted as saying that he felt absolutely helpless as he watched the boat sink with sealers onboard." Watson said.

"I can't think of anything that defines helplessness and fear more than a seal pup on the ice that can't swim or escape as it is approached by some cigarette-smoking ape with a club."

A spokesman for Elizabeth May told AFP: "We're opposed to the seal hunt, but we want sealers to be safe. To compare the tragedy of the deaths of sealers to the seal hunt is unacceptable to us."

Earlier, fishermen in the French isles of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon off Canada's East Coast cut the moorings of the docked Farley Mowat, witnessed by an AFP correspondent, to show solidarity with Canadian sealers mourning their comrades.

Activists also said that the government on Thursday grounded a US Humane Society helicopter used to observe the hunt.

Earlier Alex Cornelissen, captain of the Farley Mowat, said the Canadian Coast Guard had "declared war on seal defenders," saying his vessel was "twice rammed" in the port stern in the Gulf of St. Lawrence late Sunday after he ignored warnings not to approach sealers.

Officials said the Farley Mowat was "grazed" and there was no damage nor injuries reported.

Hearn accused activists of "attempting to provoke a confrontation" with the Coast Guard ship by maneuvering the Farley Mowat in front of the vessel.

Such tactics "jeopardize the safety and security of people involved in the annual seal hunt," the minister said, urging the Farley Mowat to withdraw from the area.

Ottawa maintains the hunt poses no threat to the harp seal population, and insists the commercial cull is humane and an economic mainstay of its Atlantic Coast communities.

The harvest limit was set at 275,000 harp seals this year, up 5,000 from last year.

The Farley Mowat's spokeswoman Shannon Mann said: "We've seen seals suffering in agony on the ice. We've seen enough to know that Canada's claim that the seal hunt is humane has no credibility."



Seal hunt protesters will be charged, Hearn says

The Canadian Press April 3, 2008 at 9:18 AM EDT

Canadian Coast Guard Protects Sealers
A Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker keeps watch on the Sea Shepherd conservation society vessel Farley Mowat off the coast of Cape Breton on March 30. (Paul Darrow/Reuters)

ST. JOHN'S — Federal Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn says charges will be laid in connection with an alleged incident involving the seal hunt protest vessel Farley Mowat.

Sealers contend that the vessel came too close to them on the ice north of Cape Breton last weekend, even after being warned away by the Coast Guard.

Mr. Hearn asserted in an interview with radio station VOCM that the conservation groups broke a law that requires them to maintain a specific distance from the hunt.

“They've been very cute. These people are smart. They've been around. They know the law. They know how they can flaunt it,” Hearn said.

“However, they push it and in some cases, recently, they've broken it. They cannot approach within half a mile of our sealers. They have done that.”

Protest leader Paul Watson, president of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, has denied allegations that the Farley Mowat got too close to the hunt and insists his ship was rammed twice by the coast guard icebreaker Des Groseilliers on the weekend.

The Farley Mowat is currently in St. Pierre-Miquelon and remains out of Canadian waters.

Mr. Watson said the 54-metre long ship was intentionally hit in the stern while stopped.



Activists allege cover-up in seal hunt
'This says to the world that there is something to hide'

Marianne White
Canwest News Service

Friday, March 28, 2008

Animal welfare activists accused the Canadian government yesterday of denying them access to the start of the seal hunt to cover-up the annual harvest.

The hunt was to begin half an hour before dawn today in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, but observers and journalists will not be able to document it because they were not issued permits by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

"The government is determined to do everything in its power to stop people from documenting what happens on the ice flows," charged Rebecca Aldworth, director of Canadian wildlife issues for the Humane Society of the United States.

"This says to the world that there is something to hide out on the ice flows off Canada's East Coast," she added.

The Department of Fisheries confirmed that it hasn't issued any permits for observers and explained it is holding off until it has a better idea of the sealing activity.

"We are not in the business of running a travel agency here and we have to make sure this is a safe and orderly hunt," said department spokesman Phil Jenkins.

He couldn't say how many permits had already been issued to sealers, but said a few vessels have left Quebec's Magdalen Island.

"We want to make sure we don't have a complete media circus above one or two or three sealing vessels," Mr. Jenkins stressed, adding the department received a record 60 permit requests to observe this year's harvest.

He said a decision will be made today on issuing permits to observers based on the number of sealing vessels involved in the harvest. The Humane Society was planning on taking journalists, mostly Europeans, to the first day of hunting today by boat and helicopter.

Another leading opponent of the seal hunt, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said it will attend the first day of the hunt no matter what. "Regardless of whether we have the permits or not, we will use our helicopters to go observe the hunt," said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with the IFAW.

Ms. Aldworth said it's the first time in 10 years of documenting the seal hunt that she is not able to get permits to attend the kick off.

She blames it on the fact that the Canadian government is lobbying against a possible ban on seal products by the European Union that could come as soon as June. A delegation of Canadian officials and hunters heads to Europe today to make a plea for the controversial sealing industry.

"This is a first and I think it stands out given what is happening politically in Europe," Ms. Aldworth said.
© National Post 2008



Seal hunters, protesters head for the ice floes

Ken Meaney , Canwest News Service
Published: Friday, March 28, 2008

Harp Seal Pup
A harp seal pup lies on an ice floe March 24, 2008 in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence in Canada. Canada's seal hunt is expected to start later this week and the government has said this year 275,000 harp seals can be harvested.
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Sealers and observers headed to the ice floes Friday as the annual seal hunt began in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Animal welfare activists had accused the Canadian government Thursday of denying them observer permits as part of a "cover-up" of the hunt just as the European Union is weighing a ban on the import of seal products.

But on Friday, Phil Jenkins of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, said 60 observer permits had been issued, "so the flap you saw yesterday afternoon about coverup and all that kind of stuff is nonsense and always was."

The Southern Gulf hunt is concentrated in the Cabot Strait area between Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, but vessels have not yet reached the floes there because of heavy ice. Most of the hunters, so far, are from the Magdalen Islands. About 16 vessels were taking part in the hunt on Friday.

A separate hunt in the northern part of the gulf, between Newfoundland and Quebec, will likely open next week. The largest part of the hunt, off Newfoundland's northeast coast, will probably open the week after that, he said.

The Newfoundland hunt is responsible for about 70 per cent of the animals killed.

Observer permits were issued for groups such as the Humane Society of the United States and the International Fund for Animal Welfare. There were also permits for media organizations such as the United Kingdom's Sky TV.

Once on the ice floes, observers, who usually go to the hunt by helicopter, are allowed no closer than 10 metres to sealers.

On Thursday, a spokeswoman for the International Fund for Animal Welfare said the Canadian government was trying to limit access to the hunt while it works to lobby against a possible ban on seal products by the European Union that could come as soon as June.

The government denied the claim and said it is only driven by safety concerns.

A delegation of Canadian officials and hunters headed to Europe Friday to make their case for the sealing industry.

For this year's harvest, the government set a quota of 275,000 seal harps out of a population of nearly six million.

Canadian officials have long maintained the hunt is well-monitored and sustainable and Ottawa announced earlier this year that hunters will now have to take extra steps to ensure the seals die humanely.

© Canwest News Service 2008


Preparing for the hunt; Quotas, seal prices a concern for sealers

The Pilot
March 20, 2008

Sealer Prepares
Clyde Noble was busy last week doing maintenance on his vessel for the upcoming seal hunt. While the total allowable catch quotas announced are a consideration, Mr. Noble is more concerned about the price that will be set for seals this year, something he said they won’t truly know until they return from the harvest. Dave Cooper photo

Although no opening dates have yet been set for the 2008 seal harvest, quotas have been announced and they aren't sitting well with those involved in the industry.

With an estimated population of 5.5 million, the 2008 seal hunt quota of 275,000 isn't the news sealers wanted to hear.

Although the total allowable catch (TAC) has seen an increase of 5,000 over 2007, the Canadian Sealers Association was asking for a TAC of 300,000.

This allocation includes 2,000 seals for personal use, 4,950 seals for Aboriginal initiatives and a carry forward of 16,186 seals for those fleets who did not capture their quota from 2007. Once the carry forward is deducted, existing sharing arrangements remain in place, with the Front receiving about 70 per cent of the TAC and about 30 per cent for the Gulf. The 2008 hooded seal TAC has been set at 8,200 animals out of a herd of 600,000.

Local fisherman Clyde Noble is preparing his vessel to take part in the seal hunt again this year. Mr. Noble is relatively new to this fishery, this being his third year.

With an estimated population of 5.5 million seals, Mr. Noble described the quotas announced as less than a drop in the bucket.

With the quotas and the prices that are being offered for seals, Mr. Noble wonders if it is even worth it to be involved.

"The price is down on the seals, I'm hearing anywhere from $20 to $40 dollars, but you won't know the true price until you get out and get back," he said. "With the cost of fuel, if you are only going to get $20 a seal, if you get 500, you aren't even going to break even."

Another factor Mr. Noble said fisherpersons have to consider is the wear and tear on their vessel.

"When you look at it, pounding your boat through the ice is the same as running into rocks all day long," he said. "So if you are not going to get $80 or $100 for a seal, it is not worth going out for. It is hard on a vessel."

Despite that Mr. Noble said he still intends to take to the waters for the opening of this years seal hunt.

Opening dates for the 2008 harp seal hunt will be announced in the coming weeks, following consultation with industry.


Fishermen after higher grey seal quota

Last Updated: Friday, February 8, 2008 | 10:37 AM AT
CBC News

Prince Edward Island Sealers
The grey seal makes up only a small part of the current seal hunt. (CBC)

With new research suggesting a big increase in the population of grey seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, fishermen in western P.E.I. are looking for a bigger hunt this year.

Grey seals are only a small percentage of the overall Canadian seal hunt, with most of the attention paid to the harp seal harvest. But grey seals are an issue for fishermen because they live, and eat, in the gulf year round.

"We're competing with the seal," said Shelton Barlow, head of the Prince County Fishermen's Association.

"We're going to try to win out, if we can."

Shelton Barlow - Sealer
Shelton Barlow says his group will be in Moncton to argue for higher quotas. (CBC)

Officials from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans are doing helicopter surveys of the seals this week to determine both how many seals there are, and when the hunt might start.

"Overall, there's about 300,000 animals in eastern Canada," the department's Mike Hammill said.

"The population has increased a fair amount since the '70s. Population back then was around 25,000 animals."

Barlow said representatives from his association will be in Moncton Friday at a meeting that will help decide the number of grey seals to be hunted this year. They will be pushing for an increase from last year's 12,000-animal quota.





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