Ottawa, Canada – 10 March 2008
Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has outrage conservationists around the world by setting the total allowable catch (TAC) for harp seals well above what the population can sustain.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) says the Canadian government has actually increased the quota to 275,000 despite scientific evidence that the population is in decline.
“The blatant disregard for precautionary management principles demonstrates to the world that the Canadian government does not value science or conservation,” said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW.
Experts with IFAW maintain that the government’s unwillingness to seriously reduce the TAC is not only irresponsible, but downright reckless given the recent history of unsustainable catches, poor ice conditions and increased pup mortality.
“Just last year, hundreds of thousands of newborn pups in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence died due to lack of ice before the hunt even began. Now with this exceedingly high TAC, this same harp seal population will face another year of decline,” Ms Fink said.
In the last year, international opposition to the hunt has brought about national bans on seal products in Belgium and The Netherlands. Similar bans designed to close down markets for seal pelts are currently under consideration in Germany, Italy and Austria. Amid the European trade ban discussions of the last year, the international demand for seal fur has diminished considerably and pelt prices have dropped by almost half.
“All recent evidence indicates that the market for seal fur is saturated. There is no place for pelts to go, even at reduced prices. For these reasons, the Canadian government will once again have to support this cruel and unsustainable hunt with tax breaks and hidden subsidies. It has become quite clear that Canada’s commercial seal hunt sustains nothing but the political futures of a few decision-makers in Canada,” she said.
Canada’s commercial seal hunt continues to be the world’s largest hunt for marine mammals today. Last year over 224,000 seals were killed, 98.5% of which were pups under three months old.