Off Canada's east coast, harp seals are giving birth to their offspring. But their future may be short-lived, as Canada prepares to announce what could be the biggest seal hunt ever. It's a hunt justified by inaccurate, incomplete and out-of-date science that could threaten the survival of the harp seal.
Hundreds of thousand of seals are being killed today with no clear understanding of the ecological impacts.
It is only a matter of days before the Canadian government
signals thebeginning of what may be the biggest seal hunt in
history. 350,000seals could die this year as part of a three-year
government program tokill a million seals.
When undertaking the largest hunt of marine mammals on the globe
youwould think the Canadian government has a rock-solid
justificationbacked up by sound figures. After all, they would not
hunt so manyseals if this threatened the long-term survival of the
Wrong. Analysis of the justification of the hunt in our
report"Canadian Seal Hunt: No Management and No Plan", highlights a
number ofgaping holes in the government's case:
- Canadian scientistsonly count the population every five years
-- so any declines inpopulation based on new birth counts could
take up to 15 years orlonger to be detected and verified.
- The methods used by Canadato monitor the hunt quotas fail to
count seals that are wounded butescape to die later, seals killed
by illegal hunting and those that arekilled for their organs and
- Future populationestimates don't consider other changes, like
climate change, that couldadversely affect the seal population.
Changes in sea-ice can have aprofound impact on the feeding and
breeding habits of seals.
- Other smaller hunts and threats to seals are also ignored when
estimating future seal populations.
Mhairi Dunlop from Greenpeace International explains why the
huntshould not continue: "It is irresponsible and
scientificallyunjustifiable of the Canadian government to allow the
killing of nearlya million seals when their own scientists are
unable to accuratelysubstantiate the size of the herd, the actual
number of seals taken inthe hunt or the impact of external
pressures like climate change on thehealth of the population". The
Canadian government has a long historyof mismanaging marine
ecosystems, yielding to the short-term interestsof the fishing and
sealing industries at great cost to jobs and marinelife."
Don't worry, we know what we are doing
Canadian government claims that the seal herd is "healthy
andabundant" and "at a level where there are no conservation
concerns,"are inaccurate at best and ironically reminiscent of past
claimsconcerning the Atlantic Cod. The world's most abundant
fishery, on theCanadian Grand Banks, was fished to oblivion with
the help ofgovernment subsidies. Rather than learn from this
mistake thegovernment seems to be repeating the same sorry tale
with seals in theplace of cod.
Government scientists have produced data that is overly
optimistic,inaccurate and out of date. There is simply no
justification for thishunt. If Canada really takes the
precautionary principle seriously thenit should err on the side of
conservation before the seals becomeanother casualty of Canada's
gross mismanagement of fragile ecosystemsand species.
For in depth info read the
press release and