Seal Pups Face Hunters and Record Ice Shortage
An Animal Rights Article from

March 2010

Stranded: A starving harp seal pup washed up on the shore of Prince Edward Island in the Gulf Of St Lawrence

Stranded on a beach all alone, this starving harp seal pup faces a bleak and, most likely, short future.

The pup is one of tens of thousands who have washed up on beaches in Canada's Gulf Of St Lawrence during the worst ice conditions ever recorded in the region.

Thousands are presumed dead because the gulf, which is the annual birthing ground of hundreds of thousands of harp seals, is currently lacking both ice and seals.

Many more thousands of seals are expected to die this year, the International Fund For Animal Welfare (IFAW) has warned.

Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with IFAW, said: 'The conditions this year are disastrous for seal pups. I've surveyed this region for nine years and have never seen anything like this.

'There is wide open water instead of the usual ice floes, and rather than the hundreds of thousands of seal pups that we normally encounter, only a handful of baby harp and hooded seals - animals that are normally found on ice - remain on the beaches.'

This year is expected to yield another especially high harp seal pup mortality rate, following on from 2007 when 99 per cent and 75 per cent of pups are thought to have died in similar circumstances, and 2002's 75 per cent mortality rate.

Scientists have hailed 2010 as the worst ice year on record with little to no ice forming in the Southern Gulf.

They are concerned that the cumulative effects of high pup mortality due to the poor ice conditions, and high numbers of pups killed during Canada's commercial seal hunt could be devastating.

Ms Fink added: 'Finding these ice-dependent seal species on land is extremely unusual, and should be considered a warning signal.

'The seal pups we have found on shore are thin and unable to defend themselves or escape from land-based predators. It is highly unlikely that any of these pups will survive long enough for there to be a seal hunt in the southern gulf this year.

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