Greenpeace Calls for Suspension of Canadian Seal Hunt

New findings released by Greenpeace reveal that the science presented by the Canadian government to justify its commercial seal hunt for the years 2003-2005 is inaccurate, incomplete and out of date. The report concludes that the only sustainable and scientifically justifiable course of action is to suspend the hunt immediately.

The Canadian government's Atlantic Seal Hunt Management Plan for 2003-2005 allows the largest commercial hunt of harp seals since restrictions of seal hunting were first introduced in 1971. Even if management conditions are strictly adhered to, the hunt is expected to lead to a rapid decline in populations.

"The Canadian government is using arguments to support the killing of nearly one million seals that are publicly indefensible because the science is so shabby. It really reflects gross mismanagement and a politicization of the entire process," said John Hocevar, an Oceans Specialist with Greenpeace USA.

The report The Canadian Seal Hunt: No Management and No Plan, provides a historical and ecological background against which the scientific justifiability and ecological sustainability of the Canadian harp seal hunt is evaluated. In particular, the report documents the diversity of existing threats that are unaccounted for in the Department of Fisheries and Oceans' (DFO) management plan, including the commercial hunt itself. Among the report findings:

  • A failure to accurately reflect the actual number of seals killed in the hunt rendering the DFO quota figures scientifically indefensible. The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for harp seals in 2003-2005 is 975,000. This figure does not account for seals that are "struck and lost," illegally hunted, killed and discarded due to pelt damage and those killed for their organs and therefore, not included in the pelt count
  • Population projections are based on assumptions that environmental and biological factors remain unchanged over the short and long-term, a premise that is highly questionable in light of the increasing impact of climate change on the oceans and ice conditions
  • Quotas are based on a seal census conducted at five-year intervals. The hunt focuses on seal pups (nearly 95 percent will be over 14 days old but under one year old) that do not reach breeding age for five years. However, the actual impacts on the herd can take as many as 10 years to appear and 15 years to establish any meaningful trends. This renders the present DFO conservation milestones and monitoring virtually meaningless.

The DFO claim a "precautionary approach" to marine protection is a key principle of its management model. In light of the report findings, the DFO should stop the hunt.

Photo available at: usaphoto.greenpeace.org/seals

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