Canadian harp seal hunt: largest ever

Feature story - 14 April, 2004
The Canadian government has approved a massive expansion in the allowable catch for harp seals in Canada to a maximum of 350,000 animals this year. While "whitecoat" harp seals (under 2 weeks old) are still protected as a result of actions by Greenpeace and other organisations in the 70s and 80s, and some of the more extreme animal rights abuses have been outlawed, older seals can still be legally hunted under Canadian law.

A Greenpeace activist sprays a seal with harmless dye to render its pelt worthless to commercial hunters in 1982. An EU ban on killing harp seals under 2 weeks old put an end to the commercial hunt for whitecoats -- but not to the killing of older seals.

This year's quota is the highest for any year since 1967. Canada's cod fishery collapsed in the early 90s, and some in Canada blamed the seals, despite the fact that the greatest culprit was clearly decades of human overfishing. The collapse of fisheries around Newfoundland due to mismanagement are a major driver in the economics of expanding the seal hunt -- and part of an all too predictable cycle of "exploit, deplete, and move on" which have characterised human commercial hunts of wild animals the world over. History has taught us that as soon as a market exists and profits are to be made, the pressure to hunt a species beyond sustainable population levels will inevitably lead to a non-sustainable hunt.

We oppose any human activity harmful to populations of seals. We oppose the killing of seals for commercial trade. We oppose taking animals from endangered, threatened or seriously reduced populations, from populations whose status is unknown or where it is thought a hunt may have an adverse effect.

When you add new uncertainties about how global warming is impacting fragile arctic environments, an expanded hunt means the impacts on seal populations are at best uncertain.

Greenpeace was part of a movement that first actively campaigned against commercial Canadian sealing between 1976 and 1983. Since that time, groups such as the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and other organisations, have taken the lead in campaigning against the slaughter of seals.

We support the efforts of the International Fund for Animal Welfare and other organisations taking action against the commercial hunt for harp and hooded seals.

Take Action

Take action with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, where you can sign the "Million Signature Petition." You can also write to the Canadian Prime Minister via our action centre.