Bad spring for seals

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2002:

ST. JOHN’S, Newfoundland–Northeastern Newfoundland sealers
in mid-April 2002 reported their most profitable seal hunt in
decades, while sealers from the west of Newfoundland, the Magdalen
Islands, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, and Labrador were
all but excluded from the killing.
Ice failed to form over much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence,
and melted early where it did form, drowning thousands of newborn
harp seals whose remains washed ashore in western Newfoundland.

“In five days of flying over the entire region, we haven’t
been able to spot a single seal pup. Usually there are 200,000 to
300,000 harp seals born in the Gulf of St. Lawrence,” marine
biologist and Canadian director of the International Fund for Animal
Welfare Rick Smith told Boston Globe reporter Colin Nickerson in late
“This could spell devastation for the population,” Smith
predicted, “not only in the Gulf but off [the east of] Newfoundland,
where the hunt may become even more intense to compensate.”
Smith was right about that. The lack of seals in the Gulf of
St. Lawrence drove the average “Grade A” pelt price to $71.70, from
$35 in 2001 and just $13 in 2000, while strong ice conditions in the
Gulf of Newfoundland enabled the northeastern Newfoundland offshore
sealers to kill almost the entire 2002 quota of 275,000 harp seals
As of April 20, 249,000 seal pelts had been landed, with 25
days remaining in the season if any quota remained unfilled.
Despite the potentially catastrophic reproductive failure of
the Gulf of St. Lawrence seal herd and lethal impact of concentrating
the hunt in the Gulf of Newfoundland, the Canadian Fisheries
Resource Conservation Council, an industry advisory group, on April
17 called for killing even more seals, whom it blamed for the
failure of overfished cod stocks to recover despite the virtual
closure of the Atlantic Canada cod fishery since 1994.
Until the cod stocks collapsed, forcing the closure, the
fishing industry and Canadian Depart-ment of Fisheries and Oceans
consistently overestimated the numbers of cod left to be caught,
setting unsustainably high cod quotas from the very start of
fisheries regulation

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