Canadians may kill most seals since 1951
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2002:
OTTAWA–Admitting that Atlantic Canadian sealers had already
killed 295,000 harp seals this spring when the original 2002 quota
was 275,000 and the “total allowable catch” was only 257,000, the
Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans on May 2 raised the quota
to 320,000 and extended the sealing season to May 15.
Then on May 15 the DFO further extended the season, to the end of May.
The “total allowable catch” is the number of seals who can be
killed without causing a population decline. It is likely that the
Atlantic Canada seal population will now crash, as ice failed to
form or melted early in much of the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year,
almost wiping out the whelping season west of Newfoundland.
“In conservation terms, the clocks have just been rolled
back to the 1960s, when the seal population was reduced by as much
as two thirds,” International Fund for Animal Welfare campaigns
manager David Loan said.
Wrote Kate Jaimet of The Ottawa Citizen, “Early in the
season, blustery weather prevented small boats from hunting the
seals. Thinking the small boats would have to forgo the hunt, the
fisheries authorities decided to allocate almost all of the quota to
larger boats. But later in the season the weather became calmer,
and the small fishers wanted to make up for their lost opposrtunity.
With seal pelts selling for $75,” six times higher than in 2000,
reportedly due to strong European demand, “it was impossible for DFO
officials to refuse.”
It was also politically untenable for the ruling Liberal
Party, since the heavily overfished Atlantic Canadian cod stocks are
still not commercially viable, more than 10 years after an emergency
shutdown of the fishery in March 1992. Hearings have established
that the DFO consistently overestimated the cod stocks, from the
beginning of fisheries regulation until the fish almost disappeared
in the late 1980s–but as usual, the Canadian Fisheries Resource
Conservation Council in an April 17 report blamed the continuing
scarcity of cod on the seals.
Atlantic Canadian sealers landed as many as 740,000 pelts in
peak years during the 19th century, averaging more than 400,000 from
1811 to 1862. The average toll from 1950 to 1959 was 312,000,
dropping to 180,000 in the 1970s. The toll this year may be the
highest since 1951, when 430,000 pelts were landed.