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March 20, 2012

Reckless 2012 Seal Hunt Quota Threatens Survival of Harp Seals, Says HSI/Canada

Humane Society International/Canada

  • The Canadian government continues to ignore worldwide calls to end its seal hunt. HSI

MONTREAL, Canada — Humane Society International/Canada condemns the reckless 2012 seal hunt quota set by Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield, which allows for the slaughter of 400,000 harp seals. The irresponsible quota comes as poor ice conditions and high mortality rates threaten the survival of harp seal populations off Canada’s east coast.

“In setting this reckless quota, Minister Ashfield has blatantly ignored the scientific advice from his own department and clearly, political agendas have once again trumped conservation in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada. “Given the devastating impacts of climate change on the ice dependent seals, a responsible government would take immediate action to protect seal populations through a federal sealing industry buyout, instead of encouraging the pointless slaughter of hundreds of thousands of defenseless seal pups.”

Just weeks ago, a leading Canadian government scientist publicly called for a reduction in the harp seal quota of at least 100,000 to address the impacts of climate change on these ice dependent animals in recent years.[1] Environment Canada predicts that by the time the sealing seasons open in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and northeast of Newfoundland respectively, there will be little sea ice remaining in these regions.[2]

Independent scientists warn that reckless kill levels authorized by the Canadian government, paired with the impacts of climate change on the ice dependent harp seals, poses a serious ecological threat to the survival of harp seal populations.

Last year, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, and Belarus prohibited the import and export of fur from harp seals, the primary targets of Canada’s commercial seal slaughter. The United States and the European Union – Canada’s two largest trading partners – have also ended their trade in seal products. 

Global markets for seal products are closing fast and Canada increasingly stands alone in its promotion of the seal slaughter. HSI/Canada calls on the Canadian government to support a federal buyout of the commercial sealing industry, which would compensate fishermen for lost income as the seal slaughter comes to and end, and invest public money in developing economic alternatives in the communities involved.


  • Government landings reports confirm that more than 98 percent of seals killed in Canada’s annual slaughter are less than three months of age.
  • Veterinary reports consistently reveal high levels of animal suffering in commercial sealing, and leading veterinary experts have suggested in recent years that Canada’s commercial slaughter is inherently inhumane.
  • Sealers are commercial fishermen who, on average, earn less than 5 percent of their annual incomes from sealing killing seals – the remainder comes from seafood such as crab, shrimp and lobster.
  • Nearly 6,000 establishments, and more than 750,000 people, have joined a global boycott of Canadian seafood products that will continue until the seal slaughter ends. The boycott has already cost the Canadian economy many times the value of the seal slaughter.
  • National polling consistently shows the overwhelming majority of Canadians want the commercial seal slaughter to end, and oppose the Canadian government using tax dollars to promote the sealing industry.
  • Polling shows half of Newfoundland sealers and the majority of Newfoundlanders, holding an opinion, support a federal sealing industry buyout (Ipsos Reid 2010).

[ 1] http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/prince-edward-island/story/2011/12/26/pei-harp-seal-quota-548.html

[ 2] http://www.ec.gc.ca/glaces-ice/default.asp?Lang=En&n=AFC8D98B-1&wsdoc=8801A900-5C7E-4EEB-B305-F104B8901B2E.

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

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