Home | Site Map | Search   

Help | Donate | Resources | Boycott Canadian Seafood | Spread the Word | About the Seal Hunt | About Seals | News | Politics | About Us | Chinese




Get Seal Gear at the Harpseals.org E-Store


 Join the Harpseals.org Campaign




This Page
Quick Links

* Carino repaid portion of NL subsidy loan

* Chinese activists protest Canada's seal meat trade

* Australian fishermen want New Zealand fur seal cull

* Canada forges on fighting EU seal import ban

* Two harp seals to be released after outcry

* Magdalen Island aquarium planned to kill seals

* Namibian seal kill hurts tourism

* Namibia anti-sealing campaign worries gov't

* Namibia ombudsman report: sealing to continue

* Hatem Yavuz - Mr Fur

* Namibian companies boycotted over sealing

* Senate to debate bill to end seal hunt

* St. John's fur company to seal deal with NL

* Singer McLachlan protests seal hunt

* Two sea lions killed for eating salmon

* Sealers furious over QC purchase of seal dolls

* Newfoundland gov't bails out Carino

* Humane Society talks to sealers

* Anti-sealing: find 'strange ally' in climate change

* Warm weather to hamper seal 'hunt'

* Tracking sealers - Sealers: 'leave us alone'

* New iPhone app lists seafood boycott participants

* Fish farmer charged in sea lion and seal drownings

* China and Canada - sealing the deal

* Controversy around Seal Day

* Pins won't revive dying industry - Harb

* MP's urged to wear pins to support seal industry

* Canada may fund stockpiling of seal pelts

* Seals drowning, getting crushed due to global warming

* Canadian seal 'cull' called 'unnecessary'



Kids4Seals Web Site


Organize or Join

Organize or join events for seals


Seal Talk

Donate to Harpseals.org while you shop with Goodsearch/Goodshop


Harpseals.org on Twitter


Support Harpseals.org

Amazon Smile

When you shop at Smile.Amazon.Com
Amazon donates to Harpseals.org


Other seal and sealing-related issues and articles

Note: we reprint articles as they are written, complete with erroneous information. We urge those who care about seals to educate themselves by perusing the various sections of our website and to respond to these articles with letters to the editor and web comments.




Portion of loan to boost seal hunt repaid

December 18, 2012
By Staff
The Canadian Press

ST. JOHN’S, N.L. – The government of Newfoundland and Labrador has been repaid just over half of a $2-million loan it provided a company to help boost this year’s commercial harp seal hunt.

Provincial fisheries minister Derrick Dalley rose in the legislature today to announce that Carino Processing Ltd. has made the first payment of approximately $1.1 million toward the loan.

The original ceiling on the loan was for $3.6 million, but Carino didn’t draw down the full amount for pelt and blubber purchases.

A spokesman for the provincial Fisheries and Aquaculture Department says that’s because difficult ice conditions reduced the number of harvesters able to participate in this year’s hunt.

Dalley said the program was a success because it helped provide a market for about 430 harvesters and 388 vessels who were involved in the harvest.

The cabinet minister said the province remains “proud to support the seal harvest,” saying it is a centuries-old part of the province’s heritage.


Chinese Activists to Canadian Fishing Industry: Stop the Seal Hunt or Face Seafood Boycott in China

Chinese activists protest at seafood exhibition
Chinese activists protest against Canada's trade delegation at the Dalian Seafood Expo, November 6, 2012.

Press Release by Beijing's Animal Welfare Association
November 08, 2012 10:59 ET

DALIAN, CHINA--(Marketwire - Nov. 8, 2012) - On November 6, 2012, the opening day of the 17th China Fisheries and Seafood Expo in Dalian, Northeast China, a large Canadian fisheries delegation met with a strong protest from Chinese activists. More than 30 Chinese activists converged in Dalian from different cities across China, and presented to the Canadian exhibitors an open letter asking the Canadian fishing industry and government to stop viewing China as a dumping ground for the cruel seal products. A huge banner reading, "Canada, Stop Seal Hunt or Face Seafood Boycott in China" caught the attention of hundreds of exhibitors and visitors in the crowded international section of the Expo.

"The Canadian government is making a colossal mistake in promoting seal products in China," said Dan Zhang, a Beijing based activist, upon learning of the protest in Dalian. "China will never become a dumping ground for products of cruelty that have been rejected by Canadians and the world community alike. Given commercial fishermen are killing the seals in Canada, it is not surprising that the backlash against seal product trade in China is now spreading to Canadian seafood. Chinese activists are determined to launch a nationwide boycott of Canadian seafood products unless Canada stops marketing seal products in our country."

Chinese activists confront Canadian trade representative at Chinese seafood exhibition
Chinese activists confront Canadian trade representatives at the Dalian Seafood Expo.

The China Fisheries and Seafood Expo is the largest international exhibition event in China. It attracts hundreds of fisheries traders from Asia, Europe and North America. Foreign exhibitors represent some 50% of the attendees. Canada sent a sizable delegation led by the Canadian Agriculture and Fisheries Ministries. Seal meat and seal organs were listed on the product info sheets of some Canadian exhibitors.

According to the Chinese sources, Canada is China's 5th largest seafood supplier. In 2011, China imported over $352 million worth of Canadian seafood, far outstripping the value of the seal trade between the two countries. "It is terribly unwise for Canada to risk a disruption of the normal trade between the two countries by imposing seal products, which are derived through terrible cruelty to animals, on the Chinese market," said Qin Xiaona, director of Beijing's Animal Welfare Association.

Protesters did not just focus on the Canadian exhibitors. They approached most other foreign exhibitors as well. "We want businesses from other countries to know that the Chinese people are not irresponsible consumers," remarked an activist from Shandong. As a country with spotted seals, a Chinese indigenous and endangered species, the Chinese protesters also feared that Canadian seal trade with China could encourage illegal hunting of the Chinese seals. To Tian Jiguang, director of the Chinese Society for the Protection of the Spotted Seals, Canada has a moral responsibility to be sensitive and not to promote seal trade.



Fishermen want cull of New Zealand fur seals around the Coorong Lakes area

By Bryan Littlely, Investigations Editor
Oct. 16, 2012

COORONG fishermen want seals commercially hunted to protect their livelihoods.

The Goolwa Pipi Harvesters Association has called for scientists to investigate the potential of commercial culling of New Zealand fur seals in South Australian waters, which would allow them to be hunted for their skins, oil and meat.

Fur seal numbers have exploded in the area, with an estimated 200 seals now in an established colony in the Coorong, with reports some have even moved into the lakes system.

The fishermen, in a letter asking the South Australian Research and Development Institute to investigate the impact fur seals have on SA fisheries, say a seal cull is inevitable.

"If these populations continue to increase at the levels they have been, the impact on the broader ecosystem will be such that something will need to be done," Goolwa Pipi Harvest Association chair Roger Edwards said.

"We harvest other native species like kangaroos.

"If the species is not under threat and it is having an impact and there is a viable market, then why should it not be harvested?

"An application has been made to research the impact of fur seals on the seafood industry and we are looking for the project to come up with a way to manage their numbers.

"We want them to explore the possibility of commercial management solutions ... harvesting them."

Goolwa Pipi Harvest Association members hold nine of the 36 fishing licences in the Lower Lakes and Coorong.

The Southern Fishermen's Association, which represents the remaining licence holders, has also supported SARDI's application to the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation for funding to study fur seal behaviour and their impact on SA fisheries.

"Throughout history, there is no evidence of any seals having been there in the Coorong," the Southern Fishermen's Association's Neil MacDonald said.

"Now, there is a well-established colony of fur seals there. They are a significant pest."

Mr MacDonald said his association did not have a stance on seal management practices but would like to have a discussion about it.

He said strategies used in Tasmania included drugging and relocating seals and using explosive devices to scare them away.

The scope of the research, if funding is approved, would determine the impact seals have on recreational and commercial fish stocks. It also calls for scientists to put a dollar figure on what the seals cost SA fishing industries.

Coorong and Lower Lakes fishermen have complained the growing number of fur seals is affecting fish stocks and damaging nets.

"There are reports from fishermen that the seals quite often get into and pinch fish out of the nets, which obviously depletes the fishermen's catch but also can do damage to their equipment," Mr Edwards said.

"There also have been reports that they are eating penguins in the area."

Mr Edwards said it was widely accepted that New Zealand fur seal populations were growing.

"We only support the idea of commercial harvesting of fur seals on the basis that they have a sustainable population," he said.

A SARDI spokesperson said the research project proposal was still in its early stages of development and, if funded, would investigate the impact of fur seals on fisheries.


SEAL HUNT: Canada forges on against EU seal ban

The Globe and Mail
Published Monday, Sep. 24 2012, 8:18 PM EDT

Harp seal pup - photo Reuters
A young harp seal. Photo: Reuters

OTTAWA — From Tuesday's Globe and Mail (includes correction)

Canada is pushing ahead with a legal battle against the European Union over the seal hunt even as both sides enter the final stretch of free-trade negotiations.

Ottawa is asking the World Trade Organization (WTO) to appoint a panel that will hear Canada’s challenge of the EU’s ban on seal products. Canada argues its hunt is humane and sustainable and that the 2009 ban violates the EU’s international trade pledges.

Canada first announced its WTO challenge more than three years ago, but the case hadn’t gone anywhere and was assumed by some to have been abandoned.

The move, which was announced Monday, comes as Canada and the EU are working on a Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) that the Conservative government promises to conclude by the end of 2012.

Adam Taylor, a spokesperson for Trade Minister Ed Fast, insisted the WTO complaint and the free-trade talks are two separate issues. But many in the European Parliament strongly disagree.

Last year more than 100 members of the 753-member European Parliament signed an open letter vowing to oppose CETA unless Canada abandons its WTO case.

The letter called Canada’s WTO challenge “an attack on both European and Canadian values and European democratic processes.” In 2009, the European Parliament voted in favour of regulations that ban the sale of commercial seal products. That same body must also vote to approve any trade deal that is negotiated with Canada.

The EU delegation in Ottawa issued a muted response Monday, saying Canada’s WTO request “follows the normal course of this legal process.”

“On our part, we continue to defend our position and remain confident that the measure in question is non-discriminatory and in conformity with the WTO. The final say, of course, rests with the WTO panel,” read the statement, which was provided by an EU spokesperson.

One Canadian trade lawyer, Simon Potter at McCarthy Tétrault, previously estimated the WTO challenge would cost Ottawa $10-million. That’s far more than the current annual value of the seal hunt. According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the total value of Canadian seal products has declined from $34.3-million in 2006 to $1.3-million in 2010.

Former Canadian trade negotiator Peter Clark, who currently advises parties connected to the CETA negotiations, said he doesn’t think Canada’s WTO case will delay the free-trade talks, but the strong anti-sealing sentiment in the EU Parliament can’t be ignored.

“There’s never a good time to start a dispute,” he said. “The European Parliament is very heavily green and these people care personally about all these practices, and it’s not unusual for people with that mindset to try to block dealing with the people they don’t like. Is that the majority of the European Parliament? I don’t think so.”

Mr. Clark also said Canada “could well win” its WTO case.

Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada, argues the economics of the declining industry do not support the expense of a WTO challenge.

“It’s a colossal waste of taxpayers’ dollars,” said Ms. Aldworth, who warns the timing of Canada’s WTO announcement puts at risk a trade deal that could open up new markets for Atlantic fisheries.

“On the one hand, [Prime Minister] Stephen Harper is saying that he’s standing up for coastal communities by promoting this WTO challenge,” she said. “On the other hand, he’s risking a trade deal that would put money in the pockets of the very people he’s claiming to care about.”

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story online and in Tuesday's newspaper omitted what branch of Humane Society International that Rebecca Aldworth works in. This version has been corrected.


Two harp seals to be released into the ocean

By Anne Sutherland
The Gazette
September 18, 2012

Zak and Mika, the two whitecoat harp seals who were to be put down, have been saved. The Aquarium des Îles on the Iles-de-la-Madeleine received word from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) Monday that the two seals can be released back into the ocean.

Animal activists and caring humans were shocked when it was revealed last week that the two seals, captured by the DFO in the spring for the aquarium, would be euthanized because the aquarium is closing for the season. It was against the new edicts of the DFO to release seals from captivity into the wild for fear they would bring diseases to the ocean seal population. An online petition garnered more than 124,000 signatures protesting against the killing of the seals.

At one point, the seals were going to be shipped to a facility in France if supporters could pony up the $73,000 to fly them there, but now they will be released into Canadian waters. The date of the release and the location have not been finalized yet.

Michelle Cliffe, spokesperson for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, one of the groups behind the petition, categorized the decision as a win for animal lovers.

“This proves to us that when enough people speak up for animals, sometimes voices are heard. We could not be happier,” Cliffe wrote.



Iles-de-la-Madeleine harp seals spared after worldwide outcry

By Catherine Solyom
The Gazette
September 15, 2012 5:01 PM

The fate of two harp seals at an aquarium in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine has raised an international outcry, with more than 124,000 people from around the world signing an 11th hour petition to save them.

harp seal at Magdalen Isl. aquarium
One of two seals at the Aquarium des Iles who were set to be killed because they could not be released into the wild. They have been given a reprieve, but petitioners will need to raise $73,000 by next week.

Originally slated to be killed Saturday, the strength of the opposition has led the Aquarium to spare six-month-old pups Zak and Mika – for now.

But it is still not clear who will take care of the seals, and at whose
Every spring for the last 25 years, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans catches two whitecoat harp seals to put on display at the aquarium in the Iles-de-la-Madeleine, to be released back into the wild when the aquarium closes in the fall.

But with new directives from the DFO this year barring their release because of concerns they may transmit disease to wild populations of seals and other animals, the aquarium planned to kill the two seals Saturday as it closed its doors for the fall and winter.

One of the workers at the aquarium alerted a wildlife rehabilitation centre on Saltspring Island, B.C., however, and the petition was born, drawing thousands of signatures a day for the past week.

In response, the Aquarium des Iles issued a statement Friday suggesting it could send the animals to Oceanopolis, a facility in Brest, France – if those who signed the petition come up with the $73,000 needed to care for them in the meantime, by Sept. 21.

Wildlife organizations were not impressed.

“It feels a little like they’re taking the seals hostage – like a ransom note: “Now that you’re upset, give us some money or we’ll kill them,” said Michelle Cliffe, a spokesperson for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which is helping to organize the effort. “We think it’s the responsibility of an aquarium to have a plan and the finances to care for animals prior to taking on those animals.”

Cliffe said the sheer number of people that have signed on, from as far away as Russia and Greece and across the U.S., show that people do care about the animals, and so should the aquarium.

“The mandate of the aquarium is to educate the public about these animals, and create a bond with them,” Cliffe said. “It seems very strange and very sad that they would then destroy the very animals they are trying to educate people about – what is the message and what is the learning there?”

Aquarium directors could not be reached for comment yesterday. But a caretaker said it’s been “hell” for the last three days, as the fate of the seals is all anyone is talking about.

Cliffe said her organization is in contact with the DFO and is looking into whether there is a way to mitigate the medical risks of releasing the seals to the wild — the best, and cheapest solution.

Barring that the IFAW is also examining the conditions in which the seals would be cared for, both en route and at Oceanopolis. In terms of minimizing suffering, euthanasia may be preferable to putting the seals in a cage on an airplane for eight hours, she said.

But the situation raises bigger questions about why the DFO is capturing marine mammals to begin with — at taxpayers’ expense — and about the lack of legislation protecting marine mammals both in the wild and in captivity.

Based on the testimony of three workers at Marineland, the Toronto Star has published a series of stories highlighting the poor living conditions at that aquarium in Niagara Falls, and more than 76,000 people have now signed a petition calling on Ontario Premier Dalton McGuinty to enact laws and regulations to protect animals in zoos and aquaria.

The DFO stopped the capture of whales for the benefit of aquaria following recommendations made in 1999, Cliffe said. It should now stop capturing all marine mammals.


Twitter: @csolyom

© Copyright The Montreal Gazette



Seal cull hurts tourism, lobbyists say


Sept. 12, 2012

ANIMAL rights activists campaigning against Namibia’s annual seal cull claim that the international consumer boycott against the country is starting to hurt Namibia’s tourism industry.

According to The Seals of Nam’s campaign manager, Pat Dickens, two unidentified South African tour operators have said that their business with Namibia has dropped “specifically because of the cruelty associated with the seal slaughter”.

According to Dickens, one operator said via email that it has experienced a 32 per cent drop in tour bookings to Namibia in the last 18 months. Another, via Facebook, said they had made only one booking to Namibia in the last year.
But a copy of the Facebook message suggests that the operator is choosing not to promote Namibia as a tourism destination because of the boycott, rather than tourists not wanting to come to Namibia because of the cull.

The operator’s actual Facebook entry states: “I can tell you as tour operators, Namibia was our primary destination after SA, but we haven’t booked there all year and won’t until there is change. Many of our bookings are rather moved to Botswana. I do hope they are feeling the pressure. It’s the strongest weapon in this fight, the boycott.”

Last year another seal rights group, Seals of Namibia, warned that if the seal cull continued, they would press ahead with an international consumer boycott, specifically aimed at the tourism industry.

But various local tour operators and establishments at the coast say their business is as good as ever despite the boycott. Busloads of tourists still visit the Cape Cross Seal Reserve, where most of the seal killing is taking place during times when visitors are not allowed.

According to tour operators, people sometimes talk about the cull, but this does not affect their tours to see the seals.

Managers at a nearby lodge also said there was no notable decline in visitors during the cull.

“We should not be worried about the cull. Maybe there are better ways to do it, but there are bigger concerns that could have even worse impacts on the seals – and tourism,” an operator said.

Nevertheless the animal rights activists are adamant that the cull is affecting tourism in Namibia.

“We are looking forward to the Adventure Travel Trade Association’s (ATTA) Adventure Travel World Summit with great anticipation. It will provide us with the ideal platform to inform over 600 travel industry delegates from 55 countries of Namibia’s barbaric savagery,” said Dickens.

The conference will be held from October 8 to 11 in Lucerne, Switzerland.
As part of this campaign, a range of merchandise such as T-shirts, pins and stickers is being produced carrying the slogan “Namibia’s club scene sux”.

“We shall continue to make good on our word until the bloodshed is permanently ended, the seals are protected under effective new legislation and the people of Namibia are given the opportunity to benefit from this resource in terms of viable and economically rewarding eco-tourism,” Dickens said.



Namibia: Anti-Seal Campaign Worries Government

6 July 2012

GOVERNMENT has put together a task team to deal with negative international publicity surrounding Namibia's annual seal cull and its effect on tourism, especially the country's chances to host the Adventure Tourism World Summit (ATWS) next year.

Namibia is one of three countries shortlisted to host the global event, which is expected to lure about 600 players in the adventure tourism industry to the country. Should Namibia be chosen, it will also be the first time the ATWS will take place in Africa.

However, shortly after the Adventure Travel Tourism Association (ATTA) sent its inspection team to Namibia in May, anti-sealing activists calling themselves Just for Seals Namibia launched a petition to get the body to reject the country's bid. By yesterday afternoon, 5 557 people around the globe had signed the petition.

At a meeting of the tourism industry on Monday, marketers voiced their concern about the anti-sealing campaign, set to start on July 15, and the impact it might have have on tourist bookings.

Gitta Paetzold, chief executive officer of the Hospitality Association of Namibia (HAN), yesterday told The Namibian that the consensus at the meeting was that Namibia needed a national strategy on the seal issue. "We all need to convey the same message," she said.

Paetzold said Namibia virtually has the ATWS in the bag, and that the seal controversy could be the "only negative".

Acting Permanent Secretary of Environment and Tourism Erica Akuenje scheduled the first meeting of the task force for yesterday afternoon. Although the seal cull doesn't fall under her Ministry, the seal issue is used to impact the tourism industry negatively.

Akuenje wasn't available for comment yesterday afternoon. The Ministry's director of tourism, Sem Shikongo, referred all questions to Akuenje and told The Namibian that it was an "an internal Government meeting".

Meanwhile, the anti-sealing activists are stepping their campaign. The Seals of Namibia on Wednesday appealed to its more than 4 000 supporters on its Facebook page to start tweeting Hollywood superstar Charlize Theron, who is currently filming 'Mad Max 4' in the Namibia Desert.

"Tweet something like this ... @charlizeafrica please be a voice for 85000 seal pups that will be clubbed to death in Namibia," the appeal suggests.

"If enough people can tweet her, maybe we can get her to see the tweet," it says, adding that "as everyone knows she is a huge animal lover".

In addition to the petition to boycott the ATWS, anti-sealing campaigners are also running other petitions, gaining support mainly through the internet.

By yesterday afternoon, more than 63 000 people had signed The Seals of Namibia's petition to stop the cull. In addition, 8 000 people have signed a petition to US President Barack Obama to stop giving Namibia money through the Millennium Challenge Corporation.

"To continue this funding, at the taxpayer's expense, is unconscionable," the petition reads.

Nearly 1 000 people have also signed a petition to boycott all Namibian products until the Government abolishes the annual seal cull.


Namibia: Seal Rights Activist Slams Ombudsman's Report

By Adam Hartman
The Namibian
July 3, 2012

SEALS of Nam (SoN), one the critics of Namibia's annual seal cull, has described Namibian Ombudsman John Walters's report on the complaints by seal-rights activists about seal culling as "badly researched, incomplete and inconclusive".

In fact, SoN's Pat Dickens alleges that "several submitted documents were not even considered" - documents containing "critical information" regarding the status quo of the Cape fur seal population along Namibia's coast, which were supposed to be supplied by the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.

"Without population data, which Advocate Walters himself has repeatedly said is fundamental to his findings, his report is absolutely meaningless," Dickens stated in a response issued this week.

"This is a blatant show of contempt by the ministry to choose to hide critical information and thus, at a political level, interfering with the independence and integrity of the country's ombudsman," Dickens lashed out.

The Namibian tried to get comment from Walters, but he is out of the country. Instead, the director of the Office of the Ombudsman, Eileen Rakow, said it was true that the ministry had not submitted the population data, but not because it wanted to hide something.

"Mr Dickens assumes that this information is available and being withheld deliberately, but this is not the case. The reason why they could not submit the data is because the final figures are not available yet, and before it can be published, all the marine scientists of the three members of the Benguela Current Commission (BCC), namely Namibia, South Africa and Angola, first have to evaluate and approve the figures," she said.

Although she was not sure when this will happen, she said Walters has called on the ministry to publish the information once it is available. She said the data would also be made available at the BCC offices in SA and Angola.

Dickens criticised Walters's report as "flimsy, filled with contradictions and errors, trying to worm its way into insanity," in that it mainly deals with other seal species, giving little space to issues pertaining to the Cape fur seals.

He referred to an attempt by Walters not to classify a seal as an animal under the Animal Protection Act, suggesting that this was a manipulation of the Act.

According to Rakow, Dickens may not understand the Act.

"The definition of an animal, in context of this Act, is clear. An animal, according to this Act, is a domesticated animal, or a wild animal in captivity, or an animal under the control of humans. The Cape fur seal does not fall within these categories in context of the Act, and that's how it should be understood," she said.

Seals of Nam is calling for a full review, and until such time, the organisation is demanding that a moratorium be placed on seal culling. The seal cull is set to start on July 15, and there are no signs that it will be stopped. Animal rights organisations from all over the world are calling for a halt, and The Namibian has received several e-mails in which calls are being made to the international community to boycott the country's economy if the "cull" continues.

Last Monday, the Ombudsman released a 28-page report on the seal cull and an investigation of the complaints.

Walters endorsed the annual cull, although he also proposed some changes to the regulations governing culling in Namibia. The report is a response to years of complaints by animal-rights activists about the brutality of the cull that is alleged to threaten the Cape fur seal species for the sake of saving the fishing industry.

In the meantime, attempts by The Namibian to meet with the right holder for the Cape Cross concession was immediately snuffed with the message that the ministry of fisheries has demanded from all right holders not to speak to the media on matters pertaining to the harvest.

The Minister, Bernhard Esau nor the Permanent Secretary, Ulitala Hiveluah, are in the country to confirm whether this is true.



Meet Mr. Fur - HATEM YAVUZ

By Oswald Rall Theart
June 15, 2012
Namibia Economist

Hatem Yavuz disguised Cape fur seal skins
The amount of value added to seal skins as a fur product, is beyond belief. All these different faux pas furs are actually based on real fur - that of the Cape Fur Seal. Seal skins come from seals harvested from the colonies along the Namibian coastline. From a population of well over one million animals, the seal trade removes some 80,000 animals annually. The cull has no effect on overall numbers.

The worldwide debate about the Namibian seal cull attracts much attention in conservation circles. Frequently the name of Hatem Yavuz features in the propaganda war. As the main fur trader and buyer of seal skins from Namibian sources, Namibia Seal Conservation interviewed Mr Yavuz to find out more about his role in the fur trade.

Yavuz is the Namibian Honorary Consul to Turkey. This has little to do with his fur trade but it shows his standing with the Namibian government.

Yavuz who is of Turkish descent grew up in Australia where he obtained a degree in International Trade, Australian Law, and British Rule in Hong Kong. As a young entrepreneur he was instrumental in developing valuable products from the then valueless Australian kangaroo skins, and as a result he can boast that David Beckham was the first of many soccer players now wearing boots made from kangaroo skin.

Despite the current problematic scenario in Namibia , Yavuz is of the opinion that the market for local seal products can be expanded.

With large investments of his own in the sealing companies in Namibia, he built this industry from scratch. Today he holds contracts with the permit holders who have concessions to harvest seals. He has developed seal products which are now in worldwide demand.

Yavuz does not trade only in seal, but his factory also processes and sells various other boutique skins and furs as fashion items. He has recently received an offer to take over the American mink and otter trade as well. He is today considered and recognised as the number one boutique furrier in the world. He estimates his market share at about 85% of the segment.

Unbeknown to most is that he painstakingly discovered and developed a procedure to alter the fibres of the seal skin and fur, enabling him to produce skins which simulate the fur of other animals for instance leopard, zebra and even python.

Yavuz says he specifically designed these faux pas skins based on real fur, to prevent further trade on the world markets of these endangered species.

Yavuz emphasises that he only deals with countries which respect international laws and treaties regarding the trade in skins and fur. Despite the poor international economy, he says the demand for seal products has shown a tremendous growth during the last few years.

Since discovering Namibia in the late 90’s, Yavuz fell in love with its people and its awesome fauna and flora. As a staunch supporter of Namibia and its people and in the absence of historical ties between Namibia and Turkey, decided to take it upon himself to promote Namibia in Turkey as a tourist destination. He was also instrumental in establishing a Turkish consulate in Namibia. He says he is negotiating with Turkish Air, the third largest passenger liner in Europe, to consider a scheduled flight between the two countries.



Namibia: Local Companies Boycotted Over Seal Culling

12 June 2012

Windhoek — Anti-seal harvesting campaigner, Seals of Namibia, is boycotting local companies that are major contributors to the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Companies that are targeted are the Ohlthaver and List Group of Companies, which include Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL) and Namibia Dairies, Hangana Seafood Limited, as well as Namdeb, Air Namibia, the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) and Bank Windhoek.

Contact details of the chairpersons and various top officials in companies in the fishing industry are also published on the campaign's website since Saturday and interested parties are requested to send e-mails to the managements of those companies.

Campaign manager of Seals of Namibia, Pat Dickens, said the economic boycott of any country is not something to be taken lightly, since it affects businesses and people on the ground and should be conducted with caution.

"Repeated calls from multiple organisations and individuals to the government of Namibia to change their policy on seal culling have fallen on deaf ears. We have no other alternative to show the government we are serious, except to go for their coffers," he is quoted saying on the website.

According to Dickens, the Namibian seal slaughter brings in a paltry N$500 000 to N$1 million for the government each year. This is a drop in the ocean when compared to the revenue that could be generated in terms of eco-tourism.

Dickens questioned if the purpose of the "mindless slaughter" is to generate employment, since the number of workers has decreased from 160 to 81, while the quota has been increased from 30 000 seals to 86 000 seals.

He also wanted to know more about seasonal workers that live in tin and cardboard shacks. A total of 593 visitors on the website have recommended the site to date.

Meanwhile, Ombudsman Advocate John Walters told Nampa about two weeks ago that the survey on seal populations in Namibia, Angola and South Africa that was expected to be completed by the end of May, has not yet been finalised.

He said he will complete a report once the data becomes available. The Benguela Current Commission was tasked to finalise the survey to determine the number of seals on the seashore and islands in the three countries.

"Despite my broad mandate as Ombudsman, I am working around the clock, and the issue will be finalised as soon as the data is available," he said.

Last Thursday, Dickens claimed that the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernard Esau,has disregarded the investigation into "this barbaric savagery" by increasing the number of rights holders from three to six.

"In doing so, not only has Esau enraged the current rights holders, who adamantly maintain that there are not enough seals to butcher, but he has shown contempt for any possible findings of the Ombudsman, regardless of what the outcome of those findings may be," said Dickens.

Furthermore, the anti-seal culling organisation questioned how the minister can claim to be harvesting seals in a responsible and sustainable manner when no complete population data exist on the species since 2007.

He added that the situation has become "utterly ridiculous", and questioned whether the meeting with the Ombudsman in September 2011 was a complete farce.

The country's annual harvesting of seals continues to attract wide condemnation from animal rights groups. Seal bulls are shot, while seal pups are clubbed to death.

These methods have attracted the attention of international animal welfare organisations and lobbyists, who label it "inhumane". Data issued by the fisheries ministry reveal that seals eat about 900 000 tonnes of fish a year, more than a third of the fishing industry"s catch, while the Cape Fur seal numbers remain healthy.

Seal culling is practised in Namibia, Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia.




Senate to debate bill to end commercial seal hunt

By Jordan Press
Postmedia News
May 2, 2012

Canada's controversial seal hunt is to be debated in the Senate. Photo in Calgary Herald

OTTAWA — A Liberal senator will have his proposal to end the commercial seal hunt debated on the floor of the Senate, but is realistic that it may not go any farther than that.

Senator Mac Harb has twice unsuccessfully attempted to have his seal hunt bill debated in the Senate, but without support the debate couldn't happen.

On Wednesday, he received the support he needed from a fellow Liberal, Senator Larry Campbell from B.C., to at least hold the debate.

The Tories and Liberals support the seal hunt, meaning it is unlikely the proposed legislation would survive a vote.

"I'm a realist. I do believe the government and the Senate will not allow me to get it through," Harb said in a telephone interview. "But I want to get the discussion going, whether they like it or not. That's democracy."

Harb's bill would, if passed, amend the Fisheries Act to eliminate a commercial seal hunt, but permit First Nations hunters to continue their traditional hunt. It also contains a provision for the federal government to compensate sealers for the loss of the hunt.

Harb's argument is that the commercial seal is unsustainable as the market for seal dries up and as the number of seals killed annually stays low due to climate change.

A number of trading partners, including the United States and the European Union, have banned the import of seal products. The federal government is fighting the ban at the World Trade Organization and has also signed a trade agreement with China that opens that market to Canadian seal products.

Russia along with Belarus and Kazakhstan banned the import of seal products in August.

Last year, the federal government permitted hunters to take up to 400,000 harp seals, but only about 38,000 harp seals were caught. This year, hunters are unlikely to reach the 400,000 catch limit set by the federal government, according to pro and anti-sealing groups.

Pro-sealing groups said Canadian seal products have been exported to 35 countries and the price for pelts has hit $32 this year from $15 offered three years ago. The seal hunt provides income for about 6,000 sealers in Canada.

Even though the Liberals and Conservatives have publicly stated their support for the seal hunt, pro-sealing groups still derided Harb's legislation.

"Every time these kinds of statements get made that we shouldn't allow people to hunt seals or profit from it, we feel we have to get our voice out . . . no matter how little legs the legislation has," said Robert Cahill, an executive on the Fur Institute of Canada's sealing committee.

Animal rights groups applauded the development, with the Humane Society calling it historic to at least hold the debate.

"Debate on this issue has largely been silenced in this country for years," said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International/Canada.



© Copyright (c) Postmedia News



St. John's fur company to seal deal with N.L.

CBC News
Posted: Apr 17, 2012 10:44 AM NT

Sealer with pelts - photo CBC
This image of a sealer with pelts was taken from some archival CBC videotape. (CBC)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is working with a St. John's fur company to try to improve the market for seal pelts.

Fisheries Minister Darin King says he met with Vogue Furriers Limited owner Bernie Halleran recently.

"Bernie is off to Montreal to a show in a couple of weeks or so and got very strong indication of great demand for his product. So, things are still very positive in spite of the current local challenges that we face,” he said.

The provincial government is giving Halleran money for the trip.

King said this year's hunt is picking up after a slow start.

He said that, as of Monday, about 80 boats had landed more than 20,000 seals.

King said there is still great demand for seals in China and Russia, even though Russia has officially banned seal products

The Russian Federation, Kazakhstan and Belarus have ban the products. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has publicly called the hunt "a bloody industry that should have been stopped years ago."

Millions to boost industry

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is also providing a $3.6-million loan for the purchase of raw material to boost this year’s seal hunt.

“Our government is providing financial support for the seal-processing industry in order to protect the future viability of the province’s seal hunt,” King said recently.

Carino Processing Limited will get the money to purchase seal pelts and blubber or fat.

The government said the company will make a matching contribution for processing and marketing activities.



Singer Sarah McLachlan protests seal hunt in letter to Prime Minister Harper

Published on April 11, 2012

TORONTO - Singer-songwriter Sarah McLachlan has written to Prime Minister Stephen Harper asking him to stop the commercial seal hunt.

The brief letter from the Canadian singer is posted on the website of the animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).

McLachlan writes that "sealers — like tobacco farmers and asbestos miners — need leaders to devise a practical exit strategy for them."

She says Canada should not "waste millions more in hopeless World Trade Organization challenges or paying to stockpile pelts when buyers already have seal pelts going back several years."

Ottawa has set a harp seal quota of 400,000 this year despite criticism that the allocation is too high because markets have dried up.

The federal government has long argued that the hunt is humane, tightly regulated and economically important to coastal communities.

Last week, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador said it would provide a loan of up to $3.6 million in a bid to boost this year's commercial harp seal hunt.

Provincial Fisheries Minister Darin King said the money will give hundreds of seal hunters an income this year

© Canadian Press



2 salmon-eating sea lions killed at Bonneville Dam

April 6, 2012 6:23 AM

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — A Washington state wildlife spokesman says two salmon-eating California sea lions have been captured this week at Bonneville Dam and killed by lethal injection.

The Oregonian reports the deaths are the first this year after a federal judge ruled last month the program could proceed.

Washington Fish and Wildlife spokesman Craig Bartlett says the sea lions were captured Tuesday.

The killings are limited to California sea lions documented as targeting spring chinook or steelhead near Bonneville, the first dam the returning fish encounter on their run up the Columbia River.

The sea lions also must return to the dam despite nonlethal hazing and be spotted nearby for at least five days, though the days can accumulate over several years.

The Humane Society of the United States has filed suit in an effort to permanently end the sea lion killings.



Hunters furious over robotic baby seals

By QMI Agency
April 6, 2012

seal doll - photo Chantal Poirier - QMI Agency
A robotic baby seal is seen at a senior care centre in Montreal. (CHANTAL POIRIER/QMI Agency)

MONTREAL — They are white and fluffy, have round, black eyes and long eyelashes, and make adorable squirmy noises when touched.

They are two new robotic baby seals that two senior care centres in Montreal bought from Japan for $6,000 each. And they've provoked outrage from seal hunters in Quebec's Magdalen Islands.

The province's health minister had to publicly defend the seal hunt on Thursday after he dared to show support for the stuffed animals.

Minister Yves Bolduc visited a Montreal senior care centre on Monday and told reporters the robotic seal is no joke.

"It's very serious," he said. "These people have trouble with their cognitive abilities and the seal helps them feel very pleasant emotions."

The robot vibrates and responds to touch, mimicking the way a dog or cat would respond to petting. It also make cute baby seal noises.

However, Quebec seal hunters said they were livid when they found out about the minister's visit.

Leonce Arseneau, a member of a seal hunters association in the Magdalen Islands, said he nearly fell out of his chair when he read a QMI Agency article about the minister's visit.

He said the government is reinforcing the image of the cute and cuddly seal. That stereotype makes killing adult seals harder because it turns public opinion against hunters, he said.

"It's been half a century that we are treated like assassins or barbarians," Arseneau said. "And our minister, he thinks (the robotic seals) are cute."

Arseneau said stuffed seals have no place in government care centres.

"With all these myths about the hunt that we have to try and dispel, we don't understand why the government didn't choose a baby dog, or a baby cat or a baby rabbit for senior care centres," he said. "We haven't even been able to kill baby seals since 1987."

The federal government authorized the slaughter of 400,000 adult seals in 2012. The government says the animals are destroying fish stocks because each seal eats 3 kg of fish a day. There are nine million seals in Canada, making the seal population the largest it's been in 30 years, the federal government says.

The Quebec government quickly went into damage-control mode after learning of the hunters' dismay.

Bolduc's spokeswoman, Natacha Joncas-Boudreau, said the minister "did not encourage the buying of the seals, he just highlighted a local initiative."

She also said the minister recognizes that Quebec's seal hunt is a "sustainable activity that does not involve cruelty."

Premier Jean Charest also spoke out against the claim his government showed support for a stuffed animal.

"(The health minister) only described what he saw," Charest said.



Province gives $3.6-M loan to boost seal hunt
Carino Processing will get the cash to buy pelts and blubber until rebound in market demand

CBC News

Posted: Apr 5, 2012 3:42 PM NT

Sealer approaches seal pup - photo Andrew Vaughan - Canadian Press
A hunter heads towards a harp seal during the annual East Coast seal hunt in this 2009 file photo. The Newfoundland and Labrador government is providing a $3.6 million loan to aid in the purchase of seal products this year. (Andrew Vaughan/Canadian Press)

The Newfoundland and Labrador government is providing a $3.6-million loan for the purchase of raw material to boost this year’s seal hunt.

“Through today’s announcement, our government is providing financial support for the seal-processing industry in order to protect the future viability of the province’s seal hunt,” Fisheries Minister Darin King said.

Carino Processing Limited will get the cash.

King says the loan will “ensure adequate raw material is available to Carino to address market demands as they arise, and will ensure hundreds of harvesters secure an income this year.”

The money will allow Carino to purchase seal pelts and blubber or fat.

The government said the company will make a matching contribution for processing and marketing activities.

“Uncertainty around market access and political risk has made it increasingly difficult for companies trading in seal products to secure financing from traditional sources,” said Dion Dakins, chief executive officer of Carino.

“Therefore, the support of the provincial government is essential to secure our future in Newfoundland and Labrador. This industry can continue to make a significant contribution to the economy once the external political issues are resolved over the next year or so. We are confident this will occur.”

In December, King said Ottawa must do more to protect the industry after Russia — a major customer of Canadian seal products — signalled it would impose trade restrictions on those imports.

Canada has filed a challenge with the World Trade Organization over a 2009 ban imposed by the European Union.



Humane Society to N.L. sealers: ‘Let’s talk’
Organization wants to ‘bridge past differences’

Published on April 4, 2012
Ashley Fitzpatrick

HSI representatives
Humane Society International (Canada) representatives (from left) Rebecca Aldworth, Rick Wright and Michael Bernard walk along the harbour apron at St. John’s waterfront Tuesday morning between meetings with community groups and provincial representatives. — Photo by Joe Gibbons/The Telegram

They flew in Monday night and, on Tuesday, three representatives of Humane Society International Canada were meeting with community groups and government representatives in St. John’s, laying out what they see as a reasonable means of ending the commercial seal hunt.

“As an organization, we’re working to try to build ties with sealers and sealing communities and affected communities and Newfoundland rural areas to try to work towards a buyout of the industry that reflects the fact that it is coming to an end, due to climate change and due to international markets closing,” said Nick Wright, who works the society’s anti-sealing campaign. Wright said the organization is looking to “bridge past differences” with sealers, to develop a united voice in promoting a buyout of commercial licences.

“To be clearer, our goal is that Canada will prohibit commercial sealing,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International Canada. However, she said, the organization now sees the potential for its goals to serve the interest of individual fishermen.

She said sealers are facing poor prices, a lack of market for seals and the impacts of climate change on ice conditions, making the hunt harder to conduct and less profitable. The Humane Society believes these conditions will continue.

Aldworth and Wright were in St. John’s with Michael Bernard, a colleague and lobbyist for the Humane Society in Ottawa. While the delegation expressed interest in contacting sealers, Aldworth admitted there was no attempt to arrange a meeting with the Canadian Sealers Association. Association spokesman Frank Pinhorn has previously told The Telegram it continues the fight to have sealing respected as a humane, sustainable industry. The association’s feelings on the future of the hunt remain diametrically opposed to those of organizations like the Humane Society, Pinhorn has said. Pinhorn has accused the association of using the hunt as a fundraising “cash cow,” something Aldworth dismissed, pointing to the organization’s not-for-profit status.

It remains unclear how many sealers will participate in the hunt this year. The season at The Front is scheduled to start April 12 at 6 a.m.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans estimates 7.7 million harp seals to be in the North Atlantic. The total allowable catch for the hunt has been set at 400,000 seals, the same as last year.

Only about 10 per cent of that quota was taken in 2011 and the Canadian Sealers Association has predicted a similar showing this year. There had been no commitment from processors for the purchase of seal as late as March 27 and sealers have been advised to check with their buyers to confirm a market for their catch before going sealing.

The CBC has reported NuTan Furs in Catalina won’t be buying pelts this year. No one from the Nu Tan tannery was available to speak to The Telegram Tuesday. However, Mike Voisey, the owner of Slippers ‘N Things in Happy Valley-Goose Bay (www.slippersnthings.com) — a business specializing in high-quality provincial art and craft products — said the seal skins used in creating the seal fur gloves, hats and slippers sold by his business were typically supplied by NuTan. He said as he understands it, those skins are not going to be available from NuTan this year.

“That puts us in an awkward position,” he said. Slippers ‘N Things takes every effort to sell products made in Newfoundland and Labrador, with materials from this province. “We’re now in the process of trying to find another tannery on the island. Hopefully we’re going to be successful, because we do — sealskin products is one of our specialties and people like it,” Voisey said.


At the Fur Institute of Canada, Rob Cahill acknowledged the year is set to be another tough one for the seal industry. “I understand that there’s been a bit of a re-alignment in the industry in Newfoundland and last week (G.C. Rieber) Carino company out of Trinity Bay announced they will be buying this year. So that’s certainly encouraging and it’s going to help — we understand they have domestic and international markets that are strong enough, certainly, to warrant buying new product. So it’s obviously a good thing,” he said.

He said an anti-hunt lobby was just one factor in bringing the industry to its current state.

“Since 2006, when prices were a record high of $105, there have been a lot of different developments that have impacted price and availability,” he said.

He said prices were inflated in 2006, leading to a natural drop the following year. As time continued on, he said, international market considerations came into play, including an economic crisis in Russia and a “softening” of the Asian economy. “There was certainly a lot more pressure and profile, politically and publicly, around the EU ban of 2009.”

The next hit was environmental factors, he said, including poor ice conditions from 2009-2011.

Since last year’s hunt, trade restrictions on seal products were proposed by the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, closing potential markets for 2012.

With sealers not taking the full quota of seals, Cahill said he has heard suggestions of a cull being a good idea to keep the seal population in check.

“From our perspective, that could lead to more taxpayer costs and potentially less welfare practices used and a wasting of the resource. Those are concerns to us,” he said.

The provincial Department of Fisheries could not comment on the meeting with the Humane Society reps Tuesday, but offered to follow-up with The Telegram in the coming days.





Anti-seal hunt activists find a strange ally in climate change

Published On Fri Mar 23 2012

Josh Tapper
Staff Reporter

Grey seals - Paul Darrow - Reuters
While activists say the industry is no longer viable, sealers argue seals consume fish that they could catch and sell other months of the year. Paul Darrow, Reuters.

There was a Nova Scotia spring, not even six years ago, when up to 40 boats, 25-footers and 50-footers and 65-footers, unhooked from the docks near Louisbourg and Sydney and Ingonish, set out to seal.

It was a time, says 60-year-old Robert Courtney, who has hunted seals for four decades, when fishers could pad their piggy banks by peddling a few pelts and sustain a living until the summer fishing season picked up.

But this year, after a warm winter on Cape Breton Island, the sea ice where harp seals perch never materialized. Neither will the hunt.

“I can't see anything going ahead this year,” says Courtney, president of the North of Smokey-Inverness South Fishermen's Association, which represents most Nova Scotia sealers. “There's no ice for the seals to be on.”

For decades, the economic and ethical battleground of Canada's harp seal hunt has failed to yield a victor. On the surface, this year looks to be no different. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans cannot tout an international market boom for seal products, and activists' pleas still fall on deaf ears.

The annual cull is already underway at least around the Magdalen Islands, in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Yet the industry is faltering. The 2012 quota is again set at 400,000, the same as last year, when only 38,000 were killed.

Stakeholders once again find themselves caught in a war of attrition. Some predict this year marks a key stage in the precipitous decline in what was once one of Eastern Canada's most lucrative industries, with an export value over $16 million six years ago.

“All the signs point to an industry on the decline, and (it) won't come back,” said Sheryl Fink, seal program director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare perhaps the industry's most vociferous opponent.

The harp seal slaughter, it seems, is simply slipping into irrelevance and the numbers augur a grim future.

Four years ago, Canadian seal pelts brought in $6.48 million, according to the DFO. By 2010, with a European Union import ban choking previously popular markets in Germany, Finland and Norway, pelts earned less than $815,000. A 2011 Russian import ban on pelts crippled the Canadian industry, which often used northern European ports as way stations to points east.

Seal oil — found in Omega 3 health products — fared no better, and neither did seal meat. Oil exports shrunk nearly 40 per cent from 2008 to 2010 and the DFO called 2009 seal meat exports “virtually negligible” after Japan, which a year earlier purchased $141,000 of the tender flesh, stopped importing. “We haven't been able to recover from these measures yet,” said Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, in St. John's, Nfld.

Pelts go for about $20 on average, according to the DFO, but prices have been reported to be as low as $8. Although the federal government issued about 14,000 commercial sealing licenses last year, fewer than 7,000 were active.

The domestic market for flipper pie, a Newfoundland specialty, seal-based dog food, sausages and clothing, and other haute-cuisine menu items cannot sustain the industry.

“The price for seal products is too low for (fishers) to go out sealing,” Pinhorn says. “Everybody went snowcrabbing last year ... People here who earn a living from the ocean go where the best dollar is.”

Animal rights activists and eco-advocacy groups have found a strange ally in their seal hunt fight — climate change.

Strangely, that global issue — a markedly larger, less controllable force than trade treaties or advocacy campaigns — resonates on both sides of the seal-hunt debate.

The Magdalen Islands cull began Thursday, four days ahead of schedule, after the DFO deemed imminent warm weather might hinder the hunt.

In 2010, the department reported ice cover in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and southeastern Labrador was 80 per cent less than expected and the lowest in more than 40 years. A joint 2012 study by IFAW and Duke University scientists found increased temperatures in North Atlantic waters has contributed to melting sea ice in harp-seal breeding zones by up to 6 per cent per decade.

The resulting logic, according to Liberal Senator and seal hunt critic Mac Harb, goes something like this: Less ice means no breeding grounds, which means fewer seal pups, which means no hunt.

“It's not a way of living when you can only do it two weeks a year,” Harb said of the season which normally lasts from March to late April.

For anti-hunt activists, then, climate change has a benefit.

“I think we can say that climate change is going to kill the hunt this year,” Sheryl Fink of IFAW says. “That's not how we wanted to see this hunt end. My personal feeling is it won't be back.”

While activists say the industry is no longer commercially viable, sealers argue the large seal population consumes fish that they would otherwise catch and sell other months of the year.

The fisheries department, which puts the harp seal population at nearly 8 million, said that while disappearing breeding grounds might become a long-term problem, “there are no imminent sustainability issues.”

“It's a loss of income and loss of product,” Nova Scotia's Courtney says. “We're getting whacked both ways.”


Warm weather expected to hamper Canadian seal hunt and endanger pups

By Stephen Thomson
March 22, 2012

Poor sea-ice conditions expected to hamper the commercial seal hunt in part of eastern Canada, but also make it difficult for pups to survive, are a mixed blessing, according to an International Fund for Animal Welfare spokesperson.

Michelle Cliffe and another member of her animal-rights group are in the Atlantic region to keep an eye on any activity taking place as part of the harp-seal hunt that officially opened in the Gulf of St. Lawrence today (March 22).

Cliffe told the Straight by phone that sea-ice conditions were poor in the region in the two previous years and, amid a period of warm weather, the situation is shaping up to be the same in 2012. She said the lack of ice makes it more difficult for hunters to kill seals as the animals are not able to gather in large groups. But it also causes problems for newly born seals.

“Seals are an ice-breeding species so they need stable ice in order to give birth to their pups and in order for their pups to be able to nurse and to be able to get strong enough and old enough so that they can survive on their own,” Cliffe said.

“That’s the reason why we’re very, very concerned about ice. If there’s no ice, the adult seals cannot have their pups.”

Traditionally, a crew with International Fund for Animal Welfare would be on hand to document the hunt, Cliffe said. But with little sealing activity expected, she said the plan is to focus on monitoring how the seals are faring.

“Normally we would be jumping up and down with absolute glee that there are only a few boats hunting seals this year, and we would normally be thrilled to say that there’s no seal hunt in the Gulf, but the sad reality is that the seals are still dying,” she said.


Sealers to activists: Leave us alone

February 28, 2012 - 2:46pm
Cape Breton Bureau

Halifax activists
Demonstrators protest Canada's seal hunt during the International Day of Action Against Seal Hunting outside the Halifax Public Gardens in 2009. Anti-sealing groups are keeping an eye on Cape Breton's western coast this week as fishermen prepare to harvest grey seals. (CHRISTIAN LAFORCE / Staff)

Anti-sealers have pretty well killed the industry so they might as well go back to their homes in Upper Canada, says one sealer from northern Cape Breton.

“They haul out their pictures of pretty little white-coat seals that we haven’t harvested in over 24 years and they call it a slaughter,” said Robert Courtney, president of the North of Smokey-Inverness South Fishermen’s Association.

“And some people in the media call it a slaughter — it’s no more a slaughter than a deer harvest or cows.”

Courtney and a handful of sealers plan to harvest some juvenile grey seals on the west coast of Cape Breton over the next few days, and a group of anti-sealers is lying in wait.

Rebecca Aldworth of Humane Society International/Canada said she and a film crew are ready to capture the harvest on film.

“We’re not going to disclose our location right now because we don’t want any damage to our equipment; it’s happened before,” Aldworth said during a telephone interview Tuesday.

“There are only a few sites where (the sealers) can go and we’re keeping an eye out.”

Aldworth said Margaree Island and Henry Island, just off the coast of Port Hood, could be likely sites for the harvest.

Courtney would only say the Gulf of St. Lawrence would be the logical area.

“This is a good industry being ruined by a bunch of people who don’t know anything about the rural life,” he said during a telephone interview from his home in Dingwall.

“In a slaughterhouse they use a gun on the cows and a knife to cut the heads off chickens and there’s nothing pretty about that, so why come after us?”

The optics of the seal hunt have never played in favour of sealers and they’re very much aware of the bad publicity, which has attracted worldwide attention.

“They’re pretty little animals but they grow into 1,000-pound garbage cans that eat just about anything in the ocean,” Courtney said.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada set an allowable catch of 60,000 grey seals for 2012 in the Atlantic region.

Courtney said he knows only of local buyers interested in the seal meat, flippers and other parts.

“There’s no big buyers right now but we’re ready if we get any big orders.”

Aldworth said when she and her crew visited Hay Island, on Cape Breton’s eastern coast, they spotted an unusual number of dead seals last week.

“About half the seal pups were dead and they appeared to be fat, healthy animals who died for no apparent reason. We’ve been visiting Hay Island every year since 2008 and we’ve never seen that before.”

Aldworth said she reported the finding to scientists at Dalhousie University, fearing the deaths could have been caused by a virus.

Boris Worm, a marine ecologist at Dalhousie, said although it is not his area of specialty, he believes a virus could have caused the deaths and they warrant investigation.

Calls to other experts were not answered Tuesday.

Courtney said he figures he knows what killed the animals.

“It’s those people going on the island and stirring up the herd when they shouldn’t be on the island when they’re nursing. The big animals moving around probably led to the deaths.”



U.S. Humane Society enlists an Iron Chef, iPhone app in boycott of Canadian seafood

Gloria Galloway
OTTAWA— Globe and Mail Update
Published Saturday, Feb. 25, 2012 8:00AM EST

The Humane Society of the United States held a glitzy party in San Francisco this week to announce the latest weapon in its war against Canada’s seal hunt – an iPhone app that points users to restaurants and stores that are participating in a boycott of Canadian seafood.

“By putting out this app we are really ramping up our campaign and it’s going to be another way for the fishing industry in Canada to really get a sense of the scale and the scope of the boycott and how it has affected them,” Gabriel Wildgen, a Humane Society spokesman, said Friday.

The group caused barely a ripple on this side of the border when it first launched the boycott seven years ago to put pressure on the federal government. Canadian seafood exports actually went up.

But, since 2005, the Humane Society has increased to more than 5,500 the number of stores and eateries that refuse to sell Canadian seafood and enlisted celebrities like Iron Chef Cat Cora to its cause. The event in California this week began with a photo shoot by Nigel Barker, the star photographer of the television show America’s Next Top Model.

Mr. Wildgen’s group wants the government of Canada to buy out the remaining sealing licences and to put an end to an industry that has been in decline for a number of years as markets have been shut down.

There are no full-time sealers in Canada, Mr. Wildgen said, just fishermen who are making declining amounts of additional income each year by participating in the seal hunt. The Humane Society argues that buying out their licences would give them some seed money to start new sustainable businesses such as seal watching.

But Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, says “the sealing industry is not for sale.”

There are nine million harp seals on the East Coast and their numbers will increase by 1.6 million in the next 10 to 15 days when this year’s pups are born, Mr. Pinhorn said. Each seal, he said, consumes 1.4 tonnes of fish a year. “The numbers have to be brought down.”

Meanwhile, Patrick McGuinness, president of the Fisheries Council of Canada, says he doesn’t understand why his industry is being targeted by a boycott aimed at sealers.

And a spokeswoman for federal Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield said the Humane Society’s actions were nothing more than old tricks by anti-sealing activists. “The U.S. Center for Consumer Freedom questioned the credibility of that campaign,” she said, “contending that 78 per cent of the companies and restaurants on the boycott list it contacted were not actively participating in the boycott and many were unaware they were on the list.”

Mr. Wildgen counters that his group has done its own polling, which indicated that more than 80 per cent of sealers are aware of the boycott and are concerned, and more than 50 per cent have felt the effects of it.

As to the suggestion that seals must be culled to protect the fishing industry, Mr. Wildgen said that is a common misconception.

“There is a lot of good scientific evidence out there that seals are not harmful to cod stocks and fishing stocks,” he said, “and, in fact, by trying to disrupt the very delicate ecosystems of which the seals are a part, it could very well be reducing the amount of cod available to fishermen.”


Marine life
Fish farm operator charged over dozens of seal, sea lion deaths

by Mark Hume
VANCOUVER— From Thursday's Globe and Mail
Published Wednesday, Feb. 22, 2012 9:11PM EST

Sea lions
Sea lions near Sonora Island, B.C., October 12, 2011. John Lehmann/The Globe and Mail

A West Coast salmon farm has been charged in the drowning deaths of sea lions and seals that became entangled in nets surrounding fish pens.

Grieg Seafood BC Ltd., which operates 21 farms on the British Columbia coast, is charged with violating the Fisheries Act at three different locations.

“The charges appear to refer to the accidental drowning of 52 California sea lions and one harbour seal over a six-month period in early 2010, all of which were immediately reported to the DFO by Grieg Seafood B.C.,” the company said in a statement on Wednesday.

A court document filed by Gregory Barton Rusel, a fishery officer based in Gold River on the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, states the company “did unlawfully destroy marine animals ... by drowning.”

Seven counts deal with the deaths of an unspecified number of sea lions, and two counts are related to the deaths of an unspecified number of seals.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans did not immediately have a spokesperson available to discuss the case, but an official in the communications branch said it appears to be the first time such charges have been laid in B.C.

Environmentalists welcomed the charges, saying the case highlights the environmental cost of fish farming, but aquaculture industry officials said it sends the wrong message to fish farmers, who are striving to come up with non-harmful ways of keeping sea lions out of their pens.

Stewart Hawthorn, managing director of Grieg Seafood BC Ltd., said he is surprised by the charges, which come two years after several incidents in which a large number of marine mammals drowned in nets surrounding his company’s fish pens.

“There was a change in sea lion behaviour [that year]. They were attacking the nets, and became entangled and drowned,” Mr. Hawthorn said.

“We were very saddened by these accidental drownings,” he said. “[Staff] were very upset ... one of the discussions was should we, as we are allowed to do, get a shooter in to euthanize these animals? There was a very large number of sea lions in the area at the time. And the decision was made, no, that would be the wrong thing to do and we want to find a passive way of protecting the fish that doesn’t harm sea lions.”

He said that later that year, staff worked out a way of using predator nets to keep the sea lions out of the fish pens, and since then Grieg Seafood has not had another marine mammal drowning incident.

“It’s working,” he said of the new predator controls.

“And that’s what’s surprising about these charges. Something that happened two years ago, you kind of think that is in the past, especially with having no repeats. That’s what’s disappointing about it,” Mr. Hawthorn said.

Mary Ellen Walling, executive director of the B.C. Salmon Farmers Association, said that, coast-wide, the industry is switching to new predator nets and operators feel they are getting the situation under control.

“Marine mammal interaction can be hard to address and the companies are working hard to do that,” she said. “Companies are moving rapidly to ensure they’ve got the proper nets on those systems.”

However, Catherine Stewart, salmon farming campaign manager for Living Oceans Society, welcomed the charges.

“It’s very good news the government is actually taking this seriously and is starting to crack down on the industry. We hope this is just the start of initiatives to try and contain the marine mammal deaths,” Ms. Stewart said.


Canada and China - Sealing the deal

The Economist
Feb 7th 2012, 12:39 by M.D. | OTTAWA

Harp seal pup - AFP
Whitecoat harp seal pup. Photo by AFP.

WHEN the Canadian government announced a year ago that China had agreed to open its market to Canadian seal products, participants in the beleaguered industry thought it would be their salvation. The United States had long since banned such imports, the European Union did so in 2010 and there were rumours, since confirmed, that Russia would follow suit. As Denis Longuépée of the Magdalen Islands Sealers’ Association put it at the time: “The population is so high in China that if everybody buys some pelt or product from seal, we won’t have to trade anymore with Europe.”

Yet despite Canada’s fanfare in announcing the agreement, as well as some prodding from the country’s fishing minister during a visit to Beijing in November, the deal has yet to come into effect. It is unclear whether protests by animal rights groups in China, which began as soon as the pact was announced in January 2011, persuaded Chinese authorities to delay implementation, or whether they had other reasons for conducting what has been described as a technical review. Regardless, on February 6th Stephen Harper, Canada’s Conservative prime minister, headed to China, where he will try again to get exports started. “Our government will continue to vigorously defend this humane and highly regulated industry and seek new international markets for Canadian seal products, including China,” he said on the eve of his departure.

The sealing industry, a target of animal-welfare groups for decades, is in decline, with 37,000 harp seals killed last year, down from 67,000 the previous year and almost 75,000 in 2009. (A small number of grey and hooded seals are also killed each year.) Although clubbing the white-coated pups of harp seals has been illegal since 1987, the industry has not been able to counter negative publicity from advocacy groups, or persuade foreign governments that they way adult seals are killed is humane or sustainable. Everyone from Brigitte Bardot (when she was in her prime) to Sir Paul McCartney has had a go at the sealers.

Critics of the industry argue that the taxpayers’ money now used to support the industry would be better-spent buying out the remaining sealers. An estimated 11,000 are registered in Canada, but only a fraction of that number currently participate in the hunt. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), one of the business’s more vociferous opponents, says C$7m ($7m) is spent each year to support an industry that earns C$1m in profits. “Why are we wasting scarce resources lobbying foreign markets when the majority of people around the world have sent a clear message that the hunt is an outdated and unviable activity?,” asks Mac Harb, a senator from the opposition Liberal party.

But while the industry may be small, it is important both to the Inuit living in Canada’s north and to sealers living on the east coast. The Inuit eat seal meat and use the pelts for clothing, and some still use seal oil in lamps. All three seal products have been exported in the past, as have seal penises, which are eaten as an aphrodisiac in Asia. The government’s continued support of the seal industry is also in keeping with its policy of promoting Canada’s Arctic. Just before the prime minister left for China, his office distributed a picture of the prime minister accepting a notebook covered with sealskin from the mayor of an Arctic community. It is not known whether he took it with him on the voyage.



Controversy swirls around Seal Day

Published on February 3, 2012
James McLeod
the telegram.com

Opposition objects; one sealer calls it ‘damn stupid’

Topics :
International Fund for Animal Welfare , EU , Mount Pearl , Ottawa , Canada

Ryan Cleary
Ryan Cleary, MP - File Photo

Jack Troake, one of the province’s most outspoken sealer, doesn’t think much of Seal Day up on Parliament Hill.

“It’s so damn stupid, it makes no sense. Where were all these people before?”

Troake said after years of attacks from protesters trying to portray the most graphic, horrifying aspects of the seal hunt, an event in Ottawa won’t do much to change the fortunes of hunters.

“I don’t know what they can do now, b’y, because there’s that much damage done that it’s going to take a lot to correct it,” he said. “It don’t mean a thing. This is a 40-year problem, 40 years and then some.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper and a gaggle of ministers participated in an event before question period in front of the House of Commons.

MPs wore sealskin lapel pins, along with other seal attire in the chamber Thursday.

“Our government is firmly committed to defending the legitimate economic activities of Canadians,” said Harper said in a statement. “Canada’s sealing industry sustains thousands of Northern and East Coast jobs and the traditional way of life of a number of Aboriginal groups in our country.”

Sheryl Fink, director of the seal program for the International Fund for Animal Welfare was dismissive of the Seal Day, saying that they hold similar “photo ops” ever year.

“I guess they couldn’t manage to choke back the seal meat again this year so this year they’re doing lapel pins made out of seal fur,” she said. “Our impression is that this industry is pretty much dead and gone; we’ve got the EU ban on seal products, we’ve got the Russian ban on harp seal fur.”

Fink said the government should be focusing on how to transition seal harvesters out of the industry, given that it’s no longer possible to make a living at it.

Provincial Fisheries Minister Darin King was also at the event. He said that the province’s sealing industry will need federal help to open up foreign markets.

“We really need the federal government with us on the international scene,” he said. “Our government hopefully will try and urge the Russians to reconsider.”

But while it was all smiles and seal fur in Ottawa, opposition politicians were grumbling that the government had turned the whole thing into an unnecessarily partisan event.

NDP MP Ryan Cleary was at home in Mount Pearl Thursday for the opening of the Frosty Festival; he said he’d heard nothing about the Seal Day event until the last minute.

Cleary dismissed the government’s event, saying they really haven’t done anything to prevent foreign countries from closing their doors to seal products.

“It’s obviously a stunt to make it seem like the Conservative government is doing something in regards to the seal industry,” he said. “People want to buy seal products around the world; bottom line is they can’t because governments have introduced bans.”

Liberal MP Gerry Byrne also missed the event, because he didn’t hear about it until the last minute, and had other plans. Byrne said if the government had wanted to send a stronger message about the sealing industry, they should have made an effort to include other parties.

“There’s a lot of people that would like to participate in this, that would like to be part of it, it’s a real opportunity to show a non-partisan caucus on this,” he said. “At this point in time in the industry’s circumstance, you need to be firing on all cylinders.”

One Liberal who was up in Ottawa Thursday was Yvonne Jones.

As an MHA for Labrador, Jones will be participating in the Northern Lights conference which brings together people from across Canada’s north.

At Saturday night’s gala dinner, Jones will be hosting an all-sealskin fashion show.

“The sealing industry has become a major part of that particular show, because the aboriginal cultures of the north are very much dependent on the sealing industry,” she said. “It’s been a traditional way of life for us, and we want to preserve that, but we’d like to do that on a commercial level, ensuring that we have good export markets.”


Twitter: TelegramJames



Seal Hunt Canada: Fur Pins, Liberal Senator Mac Harb Says, Won't Revive A Dead Industry


ragged jacket harp sealOTTAWA — While MPs prepare to pose Thursday for photographs with seal fur pins on their lapels in support of the sealing industry, one Liberal senator is urging them to take a pass.

“The Conservative government is holding yet another photo op instead of being upfront about the end of the commercial seal hunt,” Senator Mac Harb told colleagues and reporters in a press release Wednesday.

“The government must tell sealers the truth. The market is dead.”

Harb said the federal government is ignoring Canadian opposition to the commercial hunt and turning a deaf ear to the international community’s boycott of seal products. Instead of working towards some sort of compensation scheme for hunters, the Tories are only offering “hollow promises of non-existent seal trade agreements with China, a doomed challenge of the European Union ban at the WTO, and another photo op on Parliament Hill.”

Four Conservative ministers have asked their colleagues to support their northern and coastal communities by wearing a seal fur pin Thursday.

“Sealing is an important economic and cultural driver in Canada’s eastern, arctic and northern communities. It is a long-standing and integral part of Canada’s rural culture and a way of life for thousands of Canadians,” ministers Keith Ashfeild, Leona Aglukkaq, Steven Blaney and Peter Penashue wrote in a joint news release.

Harb scoffs at the idea that the commercial hunt provides an economic boost to the region.

“I don’t know why they are spending all this money making it look like this is a huge industry. What ever happened to high tech? Natural resources? Cars? And oil? This is an industry that is dead. Not dying. Clinically dead.”

When it comes to the seal hunt, Harb is the lone dissenting voice on Parliament Hill. His own party public disagrees with him.

Privately, however, Harb told The Huffington Post, parliamentarians from the NDP, the Conservatives and the Liberals have urged him to continue fighting the seal hunt.

“A lot of my colleagues tell me ‘Good for you,’ ‘Don’t give up,' 'We are getting thousands of emails and letters from constituents and we tell them that Senator Harb is fighting for you,’” Harb said. “I tell them, I also need you to speak out.”

“I have knowledge of people from all the three political parties who are muzzled and they just don’t have the political courage because they feel that the political party will go after them, the whip will go after them. But this is so important, this is our political pride,” Harb said, adding he is completely embarrassed that the seal hunt has stained Canada's reputation internationally.

Every time the hunt begins, Canadian embassies in Berlin, London and Paris get eggs and red paint thrown at them, he noted.

Harb, who describes himself as a non-vegetarian who wears leather, believes the East Coast commercial seal hunt is completely unviable and the federal government needs to engage in an honest conversation with sealers.

But instead, Harb said, the government is engaged in “propaganda,” spending millions fighting the EU’s seal ban at the WTO all for a handful of seats in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec’s Iles de la Madeleine.

“They need to tell sealers, just like the whale hunt came to an end years ago, this is coming to an end, case close,” Harb said.

In December, the federal government confirmed that the world’s largest buyer of Canadian seal products — the Russian Federation — had banned importing harp seal pelts.

The European Union banned importing seal products in 2010, and the federal government has failed to deliver on a promise to open the Chinese market to Canadian seal meat.

-with files from the Canadian Press



MPs urged to wear pins to support seal industry

The Canadian Press Posted: Feb 2, 2012 11:47 AM NT

Harper promoting sealing
Prime Minister Stephen Harper receives a sealskin gift from Pujjuut Kusugak, the mayor of Rankin Inlet, as Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq looks on during a photo opportunity in his office on Thursday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

The federal fisheries minister is encouraging all members of parliament to show their support for Canada's embattled sealing industry by wearing a lapel pin made from seal fur.

Keith Ashfield issued a statement saying the pins would be made available Thursday in the House of Commons.

Ashfield, a New Brunswick MP, says sealing is a way of life for thousands of Canadians on the East Coast and in the Far North.

The minister's appeal comes as the centuries-old commercial sealing industry is on the verge of collapse as international markets dry up.

In December, the federal government confirmed that the world's largest buyer of Canadian seal products -- the Russian Federation -- had banned importing harp seal pelts.

The European Union banned importing seal products in 2010, and the federal government has failed to deliver on a promise to open the Chinese market to Canadian seal meat.

Liberal Senator Mac Harb said the Conservative government should be declaring the industry dead rather than staging a photo op.

Ashfield promoting sealing
Fisheries Minister Keith Ashfield models a sealskin coat at the Northern Lights conference in Ottawa on Thursday. (Sean Kilpatrick/Canadian Press)

"The Conservative government is ignoring Canadian opposition to the commercial hunt and has turned a deaf ear to the international community and its boycott of commercial seal hunt products," Harb said in a statement released Wednesday.

"Instead of working towards a buyout of sealing licenses, the government is offering sealers only hollow promises of non-existent seal trade agreements with China, a doomed challenge of the European Union ban at the WTO, and another photo op on Parliament Hill."

© The Canadian Press, 2012



Processors may be funded to stockpile seal products
Newfoundland and Labrador fisheries minister says loan guarantees a possibility

CBC News
Posted: Jan 30, 2012 6:12 PM NT

Newfoundland and Labrador may fund processors to stockpile seal products this year.

Sealer with seal pelts - CBC
This image of a sealer with pelts was taken from some archival CBC videotape. (CBC)

“The discussion we’ve had with the industry right now is around whether we are able to provide some short-term financial assistance so the hunt can continue and we can stock the products from this year’s hunt in hopes that the market will open up in the long term,” said Fisheries Minister Darin King.

“It’s really the only avenue open to us now at this time.”

CBC Fisheries Broacast Host John Furlong asked:

“Is it possible the province may buy seal pelts and stockpile them until a longer-term solution can be found?”

King didn’t rule that out.

“That’s one possibility. The other possibility is that the government may provide financial assistance or loan guarantees to the operators out there so they can do that themselves,” he said.

Seal cull discussed

King met with the federal minister of fisheries, Keith Ashfield, recently to discuss the seal hunt.

He said Ashfield didn’t commit to any measures to control the growing eastern Canadian seal population – estimated to be more than 9 million animals.

“He indicated that he fully understands the challenge that we face with the number of seals out there and that something is going to have to be done,” he said.



Baby Harp Seals Being Drowned, Crushed Amid Melting Ice
Global warming is melting sea ice the pups need for survival.

Dave Mosher

for National Geographic News

Published January 6, 2012

Harp seal pup on ice - photo Brian Skerry - National Geographic

A baby harp seal in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, Canada (file picture). Photograph by Brian J. Skerry, National Geographic

Harp seal pups are taking a hit due to global warming, according to the first study of its kind.

Ice-busting storms and warmer waters fueled by rising temperatures are diminishing the ice cover that harp seals need to survive during their first vulnerable weeks of life.

Without thick, solid ice expanses, seal babies drown or are crushed by broken-up chunks of ice.

For the harp seals, "good ice is about 30 to 70 centimeters [12 to 28 inches] thick and covers 60 to 90 percent of the water," said marine biologist Garry Stenson, who works for Canada's Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and helps to monitor and assess harp seal populations.

But ice cover in the sub-Arctic and North Atlantic Ocean has declined about 6 percent per decade since the 1970s. (Read "The Big Thaw" in National Geographic magazine.)

And as climate change continues to degrade the amount of good ice, the average pup survival rate is likely to drop over the years, experts say.

"Some years, when there's poor ice in a given pupping ground, essentially all of the pups don't make it," said study leader David Johnston, a marine biologist at Duke University.

In 2007, for example, more than 75 percent of pups in Canada perished because of poor ice conditions—in 2010, almost none survived, Johnston said.

Harp Seal Biology

Harp seals are by no means endangered, and people hunt the animals to sell their fur, skin, and meat.

(Related: "Controversial Seal Hunt Delayed 2nd Year Due to Ice Breakup.")

Four healthy harp seal populations pepper the northern reaches of Earth: Two in northeastern Canada (together about 8 million strong), one in eastern Greenland (about 650,000) and one in northwestern Russia (about 1.3 million).

Most seals migrate to Arctic waters for the summer, winter, and fall to feed. Around February and March, pregnant females navigate back to one of the sub-Arctic breeding grounds to birth and nurse their pups on the ice.

Pups are weaned in only 10 to 12 days, during which time the pups' masses double. After nursing, the mothers leave their pups and enter the ocean, where males swarm to impregnate them again—but females don't implant their embryos until three months later.

Alone on the ice, the weaned pups convert their mothers' fatty milk into flesh and bone for the next couple of weeks and then begin dipping into the water and learning to eat on their own.

Understanding Harp Seal Decline

To understand how climate variations are affecting sea ice—and how ice loss is affecting harp seal pups—Johnston and his team conducted three major studies, the first in 2005.

(See pictures of how climate change is changing the Arctic.)

The initial two studies examined the effects in Canada of the North Atlantic Oscillation—the difference between subtropical and polar atmospheric pressure, which pushes storms in the Northern Hemisphere to move from west to east.

The oscillation "basically governs the strength and track of storms, and sea ice formation and persistence across the entire North Atlantic," Johnston said. "We needed to understand shorter-term climate variation before looking at the long-term effects." (Take a water-and-climate change quiz.)

The third and most recent paper tied together variations in the North Atlantic Oscillation, long-term climate change, sea ice, and seal-pup death rates for the first time.

"It's really difficult to study this. There's a huge void of quantitative information about seal pup mortality," Johnston said. "So, we turned to the stranding record."

For the past few decades, groups of New England volunteers have walked their local beaches and reported dead, stranded seals. This gave Johnston and colleagues a measure of seal-pup deaths to compare with oscillation-affected sea ice.

Their results revealed that seal-pup deaths rose and fell with sea ice loss driven by fluctuations in the North Atlantic Oscillation, which are in turn caused by climate change.

"This is something we knew about awhile ago, but it's complicated," said the Canadian fisheries department's Stenson, who wasn't involved in Johnston's research.

Stenson added that Johnston and colleagues' analysis is "deeper than anyone has done in the past."

"We know that bad ice affects pup mortality, and that sea ice has been declining," Stenson said. "You have to account for that or you can't understand the population dynamics."

(Also see "Longest Polar Bear Swim Recorded-426 Miles Straight.")

Avoiding a Conservation "Train Wreck"

Though harp seals are not rare, Johnston and other researchers are concerned for the animal's future.

The new study adds to evidence that climate change, since the 1970s, has reduced the only birthing grounds that harp seal populations have ever known.

The harp seal's ability to weather long-term climatic changes in unknown, but it's not too late to avoid a "conservation train wreck," Johnston said.

"We should control what we can control. We can't control the reproductive biology of seals, or where and how ice forms in their breeding habitats from year to year," he said.

"What we can control is human behavior."

The harp seal study was published January 4 in the journal PLoS ONE.



Canadian seal cull 'unnecessary due to climate change'

Harp seal pup
A pup harp seal off the coast of the Magdalen Islands, Quebec, Canada. Photograph: David Boily/AFP/Getty Images

Study says rapidly thinning sea ice in north Atlantic has ravaged seal numbers, making annual commercial seal hunt superfluous

Suzanne Goldenberg

Thursday 5 January 2012 13.07 EST

Canada faced fresh calls to shut down its commercial seal hunt on Thursday, following new evidence that death rates among seal pups had dramatically increased due to thinning winter sea ice.

The study, by scientists from Duke University and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, was the first to track declining sea ice cover in all four harp seal breeding grounds in the North Atlantic – with devastating effect.

David Johnston, research scientist at the Duke University Marine Lab, said: "The kind of mortality we're seeing in eastern Canada is dramatic. Entire year classes may be disappearing from the population in low ice years. Essentially all of the pups die."

Satellite records of ice conditions since 1979 showed that ice cover had fallen by as much as 6% every decade. The research is published in the journal PLoS ONE.

The loss of sea ice – and its threat to the future of seal populations – has been confirmed by Canadian government scientists, the International Fund for Animal Welfare said.

Up to 80% of the seal pups born in 2011 were thought to have died because of lack of ice, according to the department of fisheries and oceans. The study adds additional weight to the long campaign by animal protection groups against the seal hunt.

IFAW said on Thursday that Canada should work towards ending the commercial seal hunt for good, compensating the hunters and retraining them for other jobs.

"It is time for the Canadian government to face the reality that the commercial sealing is neither viable nor necessary," the organisation said.

Russia recently banned the import of harp seal pelts. The European Union allows only Inuit seal products.

Female harp seals depend on stable winter sea ice as a safe place to give birth and nurse their young, until the pups are grown enough to hunt on their own. The seals typically seek out the thickest, oldest patches of sea ice each February and March.

The seals are able to adapt to short-term changes in ice conditions, Johnston said. But it was unclear the animals would be able to make a long-term move to new breeding grounds with more stable ice, such as those off east Greenland.

Thousands of seals still return each year to their traditional breeding grounds in the Gulf of St Lawrence or off Newfoundland – despite the declining ice.

"There's only so much ice out there, and declines in the quantity and quality of it across the region, coupled with the earlier arrival of spring ice breakup, is literally leaving these populations on thin ice," Johnston said. "It may take years of good ice and steady population gains to make up for the heavy losses sustained during the recent string of bad ice years in eastern Canada."



copyright Harpseals.org 2000-2018 All rights reserved