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January 4, 2011

HSI Canada Calls for Cancellation of the 2011 Commercial Seal Slaughter

Warming temperatures and low sea ice formation off Canada’s East Coast threaten seal populations

Humane Society International/Canada

  • A dead seal pup in 2010. HSI

With reports of harp seals giving birth on Labrador beaches three months too early, Humane Society International/Canada is calling upon the Canadian government to immediately cancel the 2011 commercial seal slaughter.

"In 2010, a record low sea-ice cover forced mother seals to attempt to give birth on shore, where predation and starvation caused the helpless pups to perish,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada. “Currently, we are seeing a major disruption in the seals’ whelping cycle and more land births. Until the scientific community fully understands the implications of this new phenomenon, its relation to climate change and the future impacts on the harp seal population, no responsible government can allow a commercial seal slaughter to occur.”

The CBC reported that Simon Kohlmeister, a conservation officer with the Nunatsiavut government in Labrador, had warned of a possible “environmental disaster,” noting that warming temperatures are causing seals to give births months earlier than expected. He said that elders in Nain, the administrative capital of Nunatsiavut, had never witnessed seal pups born this early in Canada.  

As ice-dependent animals, harp seals need the sea-ice platform to give birth to their pups, and they need the ice to remain intact until the pups are strong enough to survive in open water. Following last year’s disastrous lack of sea-ice cover, Environment Canada now predicts that above-average temperatures will delay onset of sea ice formation in 2011 off Canada’s east coast, and that the ice will break up earlier than normal.

Independent scientists warn that the reckless kill levels authorized by the Canadian government, paired with the impacts of climate change [PDF], pose a serious threat to the survival of harp seal populations. In recent years, Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans has estimated up to 100 percent mortality for seal pups in key whelping areas as the sea ice melted too soon. At the same time, the DFO has consistently authorized the highest commercial seal kill levels in half a century.


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 11 million members and constituents globally—On the Web at hsicanada.ca.

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