Canadian seal hunt underway

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2004:

CHARLOTTETOWN, Prince Edward Island–“The Inter-national
Fund for Animal Welfare is out on the ice to monitor sealing and
document hunting violations,” IFAW communications coordinator Kerry
Branon e-mailed on March 24, the first day of the 2004 Atlantic
Canada offshore seal hunt.
The sealing season opened on November 15, 2003, but the
killing does not start in earnest each year until a new generation of
seal pups become accessible on the Gulf of St. Lawrence ice floes.
“The hunt, which is heavily subsidized by the Canadian
government, is expected to take as many as 350,000 seals over the
next few weeks,” Branon continued. “Seals may be killed once they
begin to moult their fluffy white coats–as young as 12 days old.
Ninety-five percent of the seals killed in the hunt are under three
months of age.
“In the last five years,” Branon charged, “IFAW has
submitted video evidence of more than 660 probable violations of law
to the Department of Fisheries & Oceans. Not one has been
investigated. These abuses include skinning live seals, dragging
live seals across the ice with hooks, and shooting seals and leaving
them to suffer.

“Sealers are required to perform a simple test to determine
if a seal is dead before skinning it,” Branon said. “[Last year] IFAW observers did not witness any sealers performing this test.”
But despite the videography that IFAW sent to the DFO to document
this allegation, Branon added, “Last month a DFO representative
contacted IFAW to say they would not be pressing charges.”
Overall, Canadian authorities have prosecuted only 71 cases
of alleged violations of sealing regulations since 1998, winning 47
convictions.
The sealing quota has meanwhile been jacked up to near peak
levels to placate unemployed fishers. More than a decade after the
Atlantic Canada cod stocks collapsed from overfishing, fishers still
tend to blame seals, with scant evidence that seals are even a major
cod predator, and balk at recognizing that the cod may never recover.
The influence of Atlantic Canada in determining the balance
of national political power is such that Canadian federal governments
of any party have rarely opposed the so-called Maritime
provinces–Newfoundland in particular–on sealing and fishing issues.
Canadian federal support for sealing has accordingly
continued even when the cost of support services for the sealers and
efforts to keep protesters from obtaining fresh video of the killing
has exceeded the economic value of the seal products obtained. Seal
pelt prices were reportedly up last year, but in some years the
genitals of seals, consumed in parts of Asia as aphrodisiacs, were
the only seal products sold profitably.

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