The Travesty of Canada's Seal "Management" Program

From all-creatures.org
Animal Rights Articles

Moo-ving people toward compassionate living

| Visit our Home Page |

The Travesty of Canada's Seal "Management" Program

From HarpSeals.org, September 2011

So how could the harp seal population grow from about 5 million to over 9 million in the past few years? Leave it up to the agency that wiped out the North Atlantic cod to come up with numbers like these.

It is clear, even from the statements of the DFO's (Fisheries and Oceans Canada) own scientists, that the Canadian government is violating the Precautionary Approach to marine ecosystem management by which they claim to abide. “We can’t really measure the mortality,” said [DFO Biologist Mike] Hammill. “We (won’t) know the true impact until about five years later when these animals will start to have their own young and we will see if there’s a drop in pup production or not.”


Skinned harp seal pups.
Image from IFAW

Considering the harp seal population guesstimates that the DFO has put out in the past few years, ranging from 5-6 million to 9 million, the incompetence of the DFO is obvious; DFO mismanagement is alive and well.

Since 1996, the numbers of harp seal pups killed have rivaled the level of killing in the 1950's and 1960's. During the years 1952-1970, the average number of harp seals killed was just over 291,000. From 1996 to 2008, the average number of harp seals killed was just over 265,000. The level of killing of the seals during the 1950's and 1960's caused a severe decline in the population, leading conservationists to demand that a quota system be established.

After the DFO was forced to establish this system in 1971, the rate of killing decreased by over 40%. (From 1971 to 1982, the average dropped to just over 165,000.) Then, in 1983, when the European Union banned the imports of whitecoat (less than 2 week old) harp seal pelts (at that time the whitecoats were being targeted by sealers), the market for seal pelts crashed. Sealers thus killed fewer seals. The average number of harp seals killed was about 52,000 from 1983-1995.

Due to the reduction in the killing, the harp seal population grew from less than 2 million to over 5 million, still much lower than the historic population, estimated to be around 20 million, before Europeans came to Newfoundland and began killing seals.

But in 1996, after the Canadian government developed markets for pelts from 3 week old seals, the killing rates escalated. In addition to the increased killing, almost back to pre-1971 levels, the ice floes have become more and more sparse and less and less stable, causing large increases in drowning.

So how could the harp seal population grow from about 5 million to over 9 million in the past few years? Leave it up to the agency that wiped out the North Atlantic cod to come up with numbers like these.