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March 15, 2010

HSI and The Humane Society of The United States Condemn Reckless Seal Quota

Humane Society International

Humane Society International condemns the irresponsible harp seal quota set by the Canadian government for 2010. Canada will allow seal hunters to slaughter 388,200 harp, grey and hooded seals this year, an increase of 50,000 from 2009.

"Harp seals are facing an ecological disaster. The ice habitat of these ice-breeding seals is literally melting out from under them," said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada. "At a time when the Canadian government should be taking action to protect the seals, it instead seems determined to wipe them out, and provide more reasons for the world community to condemn commercial sealing."

The 2010 harp seal quota is one of the highest in the past half century. In the 1950s and 1960s, the harp seal population was quickly reduced by as much as two thirds by overhunting at levels similar to today. Independent scientists warn that the kill levels authorized by the Canadian government, paired with the impacts of climate change on the ice dependent harp seals, poses a serious threat to the survival of harp seal populations.

In 2010, Environment Canada confirms we are seeing the lowest sea ice formation off of Canada’s East Coast on record. The low ice cover spells disaster for harp seals, the primary target of the commercial seal slaughter. Harp seals need the sea ice to give birth to and nurse their pups, and they need the ice to remain intact until their pups are strong enough to survive in open water.

While Environment Canada says the unprecedented ice conditions are linked to the North Atlantic Oscillation, there is also long-term climate change related to global warming that is impacting ice conditions in the Arctic and subarctic seas. Off Canada’s East Coast, 21 of the past 40 years have seen sea ice formation below the average for that period, with 15 of those below-average years happening between 1996 and 2010. In some key whelping areas, up to 100 percent mortality has been estimated for seal pups as the sea ice melted before they were old enough to survive in open water.

Facts about the commercial seal slaughter:

  • The 2010 quota is 330,000 harp seals, 50,000 grey seals and 8,200 hooded seals.
  • Canada's commercial seal hunt is the world's largest slaughter of marine mammals, with more than 1 million seals killed in the past five years.
  • Each year, suffering is documented at the commercial seal hunt: Seals are cut open while responding to pain, conscious seals are impaled on steel spikes and dragged across the ice floes and wounded seals are left to suffer.
  • Veterinary experts say the commercial seal hunt is inherently inhumane because of the physical environment in which the seal hunt operates and the speed at which it must be conducted.
  • Ninety-seven percent of the seals killed in the commercial seal hunt are less than 3 months old when they are slaughtered. Many have yet to take their first swim or eat their first solid meal when they are killed.
  • Sealers are commercial fishermen, who earn, on average, less than five percent of their incomes from killing seals. The remainder of their income comes from fishing crab, shrimp and lobster.
  • Canada exports nearly two-thirds of its seafood to the United States, which produces roughly $2.5 billion annually for the Canadian economy.
  • Through the ProtectSeals boycott of Canadian seafood products, The Humane Society of the United States is working with thousands of restaurants and grocery stores to send a clear market signal to Canada's fishing industry and government that the commercial seal slaughter is an unacceptable business practice that must end.

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Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, representing tens of thousands of members and constituents across the country. HSI/Canada has active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation and farm animal welfare. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International—one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, with more than eleven million members and constituents globally—on the web at hsicanada.ca.

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