Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Seal Hunt Opens

© Chad Sisneros/HSI

"Canada's commercial seal hunt officially opened at dawn yesterday, but wonderfully, the slaughter did not begin.

Record-Low Ice Devastating

Of course, the sealers were eager, as always, to kill the pups. But this year, climate change beat them to it. In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, there are virtually no live seal pups for the hunters to kill. Record -low sea ice cover likely forced many mothers to abort in the water, while some pups perished as the tiny floes of ice that did form melted too soon. Unbearably, there are also a few pups who have been separated from their mothers on the shores of PEI and Newfoundland who are condemned to a slow and painful death by starvation.

The impact of the diminished ice on the seals this year will be devastating, with mass pup mortality expected. It is appalling that the Canadian government, in its blind support of commercial sealing, actually chose to raise the harp seal quota by 50,000 this year, setting one of the highest total allowable catches in half a century, despite this ecological disaster.

Demand for Fur Lacking

But the move is relatively pointless, because there is another reason the sealers are staying home. As was the case last year, prices for seal fur in 2010 are expected to be set at a record-low level. Around the world, nations have acted to ban seal product trade, and their actions are directly saving seals.

Sadly, even the low prices, and the tragedy of the ice disaster, will not be enough to stop some sealers. In the northern Gulf, there are a scattered few pups on some remaining ice, and in the Front (northeast of Newfoundland), other pups have been spotted. In the first week of April, the Newfoundland section of the seal hunt will begin, and some of the boats will likely go out to slaughter the seal survivors. One of the top two seal skin processors in Canada has chosen not to buy any seal fur this year. But strangely, the other, a fisheries company, seems to have found a reason—and the money—to commission 35,000 or more seal skins from sealers despite the lack of markets. One can only wonder where the funds to purchase these skins are really coming from.

Bearing Witness, Making Progress

Regardless, as the sealers go out to slaughter the pups, Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States will be there to expose the cruelty to the world. The fishing industry is relentless in its quest to wipe out seals. We will be equally relentless in our efforts to stop them.

And we are making progress. Our boycott of Canadian seafood is now supported by more than 5,500 establishments and 650,000 individuals. Countries the world over are working right now to prohibit trade in seal products, following the EU example set last year.

An end is truly in sight. Please stand with us as we go to Canada's ice floes to be the eyes of the world at the commercial seal slaughter."

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