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* Protest at seal fur store in Newfoundland

* Furrier says anti-sealing video boosts seal fur sales

* Battered Cape fur seal found by home in S. Africa

* Could Sable Island grey seals help horses thrive?

* More starving Guadalupe fur seals being seen

* MP's pass 1st reading of Seal Day bill

* MP's lavish praise on sealing and Seal Day bill

* Harbor seal population plummets

* Harbor seal population drops in Monterey

* Seal oil smugglers sentenced

* Carino to buy seal pelts after hiatus last year

* Minister Tootoo views both coasts from the North

* Gawkers causing stress to seal mothers

* Doting seal mother tickles baby

* Canadian law to ban feeding, disturbing seals

* Government spends more on sealing than revenues

* Montauk beach harp seal died after harassment

* Fewer seals near PEI due to lack of sea ice

* Pam Anderson asks Trudeau to end sealing aid

* Marin beach closures protect harbor seal pups

* Grey seal pup hit by car in NS rescued

* Loss of federal grant shuts down seal rescue work

* NJ residents raise money for seal stranding center

* St Abbs grey seal pup numbers rise

* Starving sea lion pup in San Diego restaurant

* Edmonds seal pup harassed

* Drone research to aid in seal flu study

* Harbor seal pupping season off to rough start

* Feds pledge CAN$150k subsidy to Inuit seal industry

* BC scientists against cull of harbor seals

* Seal sanctuary overwhelmed with rescues

* Lack of sea ice nixes seal tours

* Baby fur seal found in Hayward, CA business park

* Could glacier retreat cause seals to wander?

* Warming ocean devastates seals, sea lions



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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.



'The industry is on the way out,' says anti-sealing group after protest at St. John's store. Save our Seals calls hunt 'cruel, wasteful'

By Stephanie Kinsella
CBC News
December 14, 2016

Save our Seals
Save our Seals wants an end to the commercial seal hunt. (Save our Seals/Facebook)

The group behind Sunday's protest at Natural Boutique in St. John's, which sells sealskin products, says it wants to "educate Newfoundlanders about the commercial seal hunt."

"It's cruel, it's unnecessary. It's also extremely wasteful," said Renee Gosse, a member of Save our Seals.

Gosse said Sunday's protest outside Natural Boutique on Water Street was meant as "a non-threatening dialogue."

"I can assure you no one was touching anyone during our demonstration," she told CBC's On the Go Tuesday.

Store owner Jen Shears turned the camera on the protestors and posted the video to Facebook, urging customers to come down and show their support for the "beautiful, renewable industry."

Shears, who said in the video that one of the protesters was touching her, said customers who visited the store Sunday numbered "in the hundreds, if not a thousand."

'Hanging by a thread'

Gosse said Save our Seals has 1,700 people who have liked and followed their Facebook page, and organizers "encourage a positive and open conversation."


natural boutique ad
Natural Boutique in St. John's sells a variety of sealskin products and had been the site of a weekend protest by Save our Seals who calls the seal hunt 'wasteful.' (Natural Boutique/Facebook)

"The industry is on its way out … The market for seal fur is closing," said Gosse.

"It's hanging by a thread and the government is still propping it up as if, you know, we need it. There is money going to waste."

The federal government, however, views the seal hunt differently.

"The Canadian seal harvest … is an important economic and cultural activity," according to the Fisheries and Oceans Canada website, which was last updated this year.

"The Canadian government believes in the sustainable use of a renewable resource such as the harp seal."



Anti-sealing video only boosting sales: store owner

Ashley Fitzpatrick
December 8, 2016

Sales through Natural Boutique are not being hurt by a new anti-sealing video from the group Save Our Seals. If anything, the retailer’s holiday sales are getting a boost, according to co-owner Jennifer Shears.

“It does affect sales, but in an absolutely positive way for us,” she said, when asked about the video — “Newfoundlanders talk seal hunt” — now on social media. “Because people see these videos and they can see through the deceit, and the propaganda, and the spin; and it really makes them mad, so they want to support the industry even more,” she said.

Shears watched the video just ahead of an interview with The Telegram Thursday, saying she normally tries to avoid giving any clicks to anti-sealing campaigns.

The local Save Our Seals (@saveoursealsnl) group posted the video to its Facebook page at the start of this week. It includes a representative, actor Dwayne Mailman, sitting down at a table on the corner of George Street and Water Street in St. John’s, chatting over a cup of tea about the hunt with passersby who opt to sit and take part.

Filmed in late August, the video is anything but deceitful, said Save Our Seals director Renee Gosse.

“I think we were fair in presenting peoples’ opinions,” she said, saying Mailman shared factual information (the sources are stated throughout). And the organization did not cut any and all negative response to their anti-sealing position.

“Our approach for this video is to educate our fellow Newfoundlanders and Labradorians because there’s a lot of misinformation out there regarding waste that happens in the commercial seal hunt. So we wanted to inform people that there is a lot of waste and that the seal hunt doesn’t hold as much value as it did decades ago,” she said.

Specifically, the waste is seal meat being harvested, she said, as per information available from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO). The video notes meat is not always harvested from the seals killed in the annual hunt. Some 92 per cent of the meat from killed seals is left on the ice, she said, referring to DFO data from 2011.

The Save Our Seals group is volunteer based, so the video was slow coming. However, Gosse said she sees value in getting it out now.

“This time of year, snow is on the ground, and you know what people are wearing. They’re out in their seal skin, or they’re about to buy seal skin products, so if we got this video out in time before people made the purchase, then perhaps they would actually consider their purchase and what they’re purchasing and who they’re purchasing,” she said. “When I look at a pair of seal skin boots, I don’t see a pair of boots, I see a seal. I see a three week to three-month-old seal.”

As for any potential harm to livelihoods, she said she views a shut down of the hunt in terms of what might be gained, in keeping seals from being killed.

While Natural Boutique is not specifically mentioned in the video, its retail kiosk in the Avalon Mall in St. John’s was targeted in a past post on the Save Our Seals Facebook page, asking people to “shop cruelty free this Christmas,” and “leave seal skin off your Christmas list.” The business also sources fur for its product through the local commercial sealers and processors, through Carino in South Dildo. Natural Boutique sealskin products are manufactured in this province, Quebec and Nunavut. They are sold locally, nationally and — where still legal — internationally.

Shears said she was mad after seeing the video. For her, it lands in the same boat as the many other anti-sealing campaigns over the years — from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), the Humane Society of the Unites States (HSUS). They have ultimately, she said, pushed product bans and eroded markets for seal products, including edible seal products.

“When the people complaining about not using the meat are the same ones sabotaging the market opportunities for the meat with their profit-yielding lies, that is ironic. And that’s what’s so awful about it,” she said.

Gosse said Save Our Seals operates as a not-for-profit, with volunteer leadership and any financial contributions going towards future campaigns.



Battered seal found outside Cape Town house is put down

By Jenna Etheridge
December 5, 2016

Battered Cape fur seal - Cape of Good Hope SPCA
A live, battered cape fur seal that was discovered at a Cape Town home. It was likely being kept for traditional medicine. (Supplied by Cape of Good Hope) SPCA)

Cape Town – A battered adult Cape Fur Seal discovered outside a Cape Town home at the weekend has had to be put down, the Cape of Good Hope SPCA said on Monday.

Acting on a tip-off, animal inspectors found the animal at a house in Philippi East on Friday.

The female seal was likely being kept for the purposes of producing traditional medicines, said spokesperson Belinda Abraham.

"When we arrived on the scene, she was lying on hot sand and in direct sunlight," said wildlife unit manager Janet van der Vywer.

The seal had severe head trauma, causing an eye to bulge. She was also having seizures at the time.

"We suspect that the head injury was as a result of blunt force trauma administered to immobilise her for transportation," said van der Vywer.

The seal was examined at the wildlife unit facility, treated for pain, and monitored throughout the day.

She continued to have severe seizures, which the SPCA believed were most likely caused by the head trauma, stress, and inhumane treatment she had experienced.

"She refused all food offered to her and by the end of the day we had to accept that her suffering was too great and that she would never be able to enjoy the freedom of the ocean again," said Abraham.

She was euthanised. A post-mortem was scheduled for later on Monday so her injuries could be understood for prosecution purposes.

The SPCA would work with the police, Cape Nature and Marine Coastal Management to ensure that those who had harmed the animal were charged.

They could be charged with contravening the Animal Protection Act and the Marine Living Resources Act.

Abraham thanked residents for reporting the "heinous act of cruelty". She also thanked the police for their assistance.



Prosperity of Canada’s Sable Island horses linked to rising seal population

November 16, 2016

Sable Island horses
Could a growing seal population be contributing to the prosperity of Sable Island’s iconic horses? Photo: University of Saskatchewan

Has a rising seal population contributed to the growing population of wild horses on Canada’s windswept Sable Island?

The intriguing scenario has been raised by University of Saskatchewan researchers in a study published in the journal Ecology.

Sable Island is a picturesque but remote Nova Scotian island which was declared a National Park Reserve in 2013.

The unique herd, legally protected since the 1960s, has been living freely on the sandy island since the mid-1700s when it is believed they were seized from Acadians by the British and relocated to the island.

The number of Sable Island horses is at an historic high − now ranging from 450 to 550 horses compared with only 200 to 400 during the past 250 years.

A team led by Philip McLoughlin and Keith Hobson has been trying to find out why the numbers have grown so much.

The researchers unearthed a link between burgeoning seal populations on Canada’s east coast and the foraging habits of feral horses along the length of Sable Island.

They found that grey seals, whose numbers on the island have swelled from fewer than 1,000 in the 1960s to nearly 400,000 today, have their pups there and fertilize the sandy, wind-swept grasslands, transferring nutrients from the sea that promotes growth of the grasses where feral horses have now chosen to feed.

To continue reading, click here. To read the abstract of the published study, click here.



Marin sea mammal clinic sees influx of ailing fur seals

A Guadalupe fur seal rests next to a pool at the Marine Mammal Center in the Marin Headlands. The clinic has treated as many ailing seals this year as it did all of last year. (Sarah van Schagen/Marine Mammal Center — contributed)

By Mark Prado
Marin Independent Journal
November 14, 2016

Guadalupe fur seal - Dana Angus - Marine Mammal Center
An undernourished young Guadalupe fur seal is among more than 30 to be treated this year at the Marine Mammal Center. The seal has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act throughout its range since 1985. (Dana Angus/Marine Mammal Center — contributed

For the second straight year, the Marine Mammal Center is seeing a major spike in the number of federally threatened Guadalupe fur seals it is treating.

The Marin Headlands center had seen an average of five of the large-finned seals annually since 1977, but last year the number jumped to 32, with a majority of the seals being young and emaciated. This year, the number is already at 32.

Last year about 100 were stranded around the state, while this year the number is at roughly 75.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration declared an “unusual mortality event” for the animals last year and it is being continued this year.

“It has not been closed,” said Jim Milbury, agency spokesman.

The designation diverts additional resources to study the animals, which have been traditionally under-researched, officials said.

With funding from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and other entities, mammal center researchers have been able to attach satellite tags to all 25 of the Guadalupe fur seals released over the last two years. Some survivors have been tagged and released at Chimney Rock in West Marin, an area known to have productive waters that support abundant fish near the continental shelf.

When the animal surfaces, the tags show location data via satellite to researchers and provide valuable information about where these animals live. Data show that 10 of the pups released in 2015 swam north into waters between Oregon and British Columbia.

“We were surprised to see animals this young traveling so far north, and some of these animals were traveling huge distances quickly,” said Tenaya Norris, a marine scientist at the center. “The more data we have, the more effective we can be in protecting this threatened species.”

Scientists believe ocean-warming trends are playing a role in the strandings as food supplies have scattered because of the warm water, changing the range of the forage fish that the Guadalupe seals go after.

Guadalupe fur seals breed almost entirely on Guadalupe Island near Baja California, Mexico, more than 600 miles from where they are stranding in Central and Northern California.

The seal population is estimated at about 15,000 animals. While 80 strandings might seem only a small portion of the larger population, experts believe many more sick seals have died in the ocean.

The seals are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act and were nearly hunted into extinction in the 1800s. Little is known about the elusive species, which spends most of its time offshore and rarely comes ashore along the coast of the United States.

The seals feed on squid, mackerel and lantern fish and live to be about 20 years old. They are solitary, non-social animals. Breeding season lasts from June to August, according to the mammal center.

Male fur seals can grow up to 7 feet long and weigh up to 400 pounds, while females reach about 5 feet and weigh 100 pounds.

The seal has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act throughout its range since 1985 and also is protected by 1972’s Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Their life cycle is similar to their more abundant sea lion cousins, with mothers giving birth and temporarily leaving their pups on the beach as they forage for food nearby for nine months before pups are weaned in the spring.



MPs pass first reading of bill to create National Seal Products Day

“The sealing industry is one of the most humane industries in Canada today"


November 04, 2016

Tootoo and Obama - PMO photo
Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo met U.S. President Barack Obama March 10 in Washington, D.C., wearing his sealskin tie. (PHOTO COURTESY OF THE PMO)

Canada moved a step closer this week to designating a day to celebrate the seal hunt and its bounty.

Members of Parliament voted Nov. 2 to pass the first reading of Bill S-208, National Seal Products Day Act, a private members bill proposed by retired MP and Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette in the Senate. In the Commons, it’s sponsored by Scott Simms, a Liberal MP from Newfoundland and Labrador.

The bill will now be read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans.

If adopted in the House of Commons, the bill would enact May 20 as a day to celebrate the country’s seal harvesters and those who make a living harvesting marine resources.

The day would also coincide with a European Union promotional day called “Maritime Day.”

Yvonne Jones, MP for Labrador, and an Inuk, called the seal hunt industry among the country’s most sustainable.

“I watched many times, as a young girl, as my father, my uncles, and my brothers all fought those great protestors who thought they were barbarians, that they were less than everyone else in the country because they were trying to provide for their family in a very sustainable way,” Jones said when she spoke to the bill Oct. 27.

“The sealing industry is one of the most humane industries in Canada today. Everything about the seal is humane: the way that it is harvested, the way that it is cured, the way that it is utilized.”

A Seal Products Day “would be an opportunity for us to reflect upon the seal, the cultural use of the seal, the sustainability of the seal in our lives, and how it maintains its strength for Canadians as a source of food, as a source for crafts, as a source of economic sustainability in many regions across the country,” Jones said.

Simms, the MP sponsoring the bill, said that, besides being a day to celebrate seal, the national day would make a statement about the role seal plays in many regions of the country.

European Parliament’s has had a ban on importing seal products into EU member nations in place since 2010.

Nunavut MP Hunter Tootoo did not speak to the bill, but Simms thanked Tootoo for supplying several members with seal skin ties, including the seal skin tie Tootoo wore to Washington, D.C. for a state dinner earlier this year when he met U.S. president Barack Obama.

“I think that is probably the first time that has ever happened with an American president, and hopefully not the last,” Simms told the House, wearing his own seal skin bowtie.

The only MPs who voted against the bill were Liberal MP Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, NDP MP Don Davies and Green Party leader Elizabeth May, who got an earful from Nunavummiut on social media afterwards.



Seal Day Bill Promoted With Passion in House of Commons

November 2, 2016

Canadian Bill S-208 was sent to the House Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans after receiving 283 yes votes and 3 no votes on November 2nd in the second reading. As of the end of 2016, the Committee had not addressed the bill.

The MP's who voted 'no' were Elizabeth May, Nathaniel Erskine-Smith, and Don Davies. The following MP's gave speeches praising the cruel sealing industry:

Robert Sopuck

Robert Sopuck (staunch defender of the "animal use community" and opponent of animal protection efforts)




Kevin LamoureuxKevin Lamoureux





Blaine CalkinsBlaine Calkins (chair of the Conservative hunting and angling caucus; has stated that his 'passion' is hunting and fishing..




Richard CanningsRichard Cannings (whose long speech in favor of the bill revealed his great ignorance of the issues)




Yvonne JonesYvonne Jones ("Those members in the House who know me know my passion for the sealing industry")




Mel ArnoldMel Arnold (spouting lies upon lies in his long speech glorifying sealing)





David GrahamDavid Graham ("managing the seal population does not only serve to feed a population directly but also ensures fish stocks can survive the voracious appetites of our fellow predators" - except, nobody but a few old time Newfoundlanders want to eat seal flesh and almost all of it is dumped in the waters or left on the ice floes)



Scott SimmsScott Simms (who thanked PM Tootoo for bringing ministers seal skin ties)





Guy CaronGuy Caron





Erin O'TooleErin O'Toole





Todd DohertyTodd Doherty ("Let us embrace sealing as a rich part of Canadian history and a part of the essential way of life for many.")




Serge CormierSerge Cormier ("the government is continuing to work with all the hunting communities, including those in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec, as well as with the Atlantic Council of Fisheries and Aquaculture Ministers, in order to promote seal products derived from the indigenous and commercial harvest and to deal with the challenges of accessing the market.")





Seal population plunges to historic low on east coast

By Chris Foote
August 26, 2016

harbor seal - Lorne Gill - SNH
SNH/Harbour seal: Concerns over plunging east coast population (file pic). SNH/Lorne Gill

New survey reveals 90% drop in the Firth of Tay and Eden Estuary in recent years.

Wildlife experts have expressed their concern after the number of seals on the east coast of Scotland plunged to a historic low.

Populations have declined dramatically in places including the Firth of Tay and Eden Estuary, where there has been a 90% drop in recent years, according to a newly published study.

It also showed the number of seals in waters around Orkney, which is classified as eastern Scotland in the survey, has fallen 75%.

The study was carried out by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) between 2011 and 2015 and showed Scotland's total seal population had risen from 20,400 to 25,400 since the last study between 2007 and 2009.

Scottish Natural Heritage, which commissioned SMRU to undertake the study, plans to carry out a further survey in an attempt to establish the cause of the decline.

SNH principal marine adviser John Baxter said: "It's great to hear that harbour seal numbers on the west coast are doing so well but it's of real concern that numbers on the east coast remain at historical lows.

"It's still not clear what's causing the decline but we're continuing to work with colleagues at Marine Scotland and SMRU to try to get a better understanding of what is going on.

"These surveys are important to help monitor seal numbers and inform whatever management decisions are taken to help protect the harbour seals.

"This year we will be surveying Orkney, where numbers have been declining for a number of years, and the east coast of Scotland as part of a three-year programme to cover the whole of the Scottish coastline."



Harbor seal population drops in Monterey

By Barry Brown
Aug 12, 2016

harbor seals in Monterey
Harbor seals bask on a Monterey Bay beach

MONTEREY, Calif. - People along the coast in Pacific Grove have been asking where all the seals have gone. According to a new census report, at least a third of the harbor seals along the Monterey Peninsula have disappeared. Marine experts believe the harbor seals are gone because of a dwindling food source and warmer water temperatures. Over the last 18 months, fish have been swimming away to cooler areas of ocean leaving the seals, on the coast to starve. Normally folks could come to the fence line near Hopkins Marine Station and see countless seals, but not anymore.

"It's sad, because you know so many other earlier generations have seen them like line these up and now it's just really a handful of them," said Monterey visitor Gem Baltazar.

As water temperatures started to stabilize, seal observers decided to do a survey to see just how many seals are still around.

"The estimate is that there have been 700 in this group. We didn't see them, we saw a couple hundred. So just extrapolating, we've lost approximately 250 adult harbor seals," said harbor seal observer Thom Akeman.

Researchers suggest the population is now about 450. They said it's not likely the seals swam elsewhere, because they don't migrate, but it's possible many of them have died.

"We are missing some of the harbor seals that I've been following for several years. Bobble is one, Lobster, Key Large-o-- who was very famous because she was the first female to give birth at Lovers Point," said harbor seal observer Kim Akeman.

Seal experts said it is hard to know how many of the missing seals are actually dead, but studies show that at least 40 disappear from the Monterey Peninsula colony each year.

"Particularly for the harbor seals if you come up to this fence you don't want to go above the fence line. They take that as a threat and they will immediately vacate the beach. So we want to control that stress level because they're already dealing with a lot," said Kim Akeman.

The census report said that most of the surviving adult seals do look healthier and better fed, but researchers said that could just be survival of the fittest and it's unclear if the food source is back.



Smugglers of harp seal oil and honeybee royal jelly sentenced

29 Apr 2016

A Walnut couple and two of their import and distribution companies were sentenced this week after pleading guilty to criminal activity, including smuggling harp seal oil.

A Walnut couple was sentenced to home detention this week and their import and distribution companies were fined after they pleaded guilty to smuggling harp seal oil and honeybee royal jelly into the U.S. from China, according to federal prosecutors.

Lynn Leung, 61, the former president and co-owner of the UBF Group, was ordered Monday to serve five years of probation, which includes a year of home detention, the U.S. attorney's office said.

U.S. District Judge Dale S. Fischer also ordered Leung to pay a $20,000 fine. Leung is banned from working as a manager, officer or director of any business entity — including her own family companies — for five years, according to the U.S. attorney's office.

Daniel Fu, 65, Leung's husband and former vice president of UBF Group, received five years' probation, including six months of home detention, and was fined $20,000. During the probation period, Fu also is banned from working as a manager, officer or director of any business entity.

The wife and husband owned and operated a number of local dietary supplement import and distribution companies doing business as Nu-Health Products Co., including UBF Group and ASN Group.

"Laws protecting wildlife are also designed to protect consumers, who deserve to know that products are legally obtained and do not pose a threat to their health," said U.S. Atty. Eileen M. Decker. "Prosecutions like this one demonstrate the commitment of my office and our partner regulatory agencies to stop crimes motivated by greed that threaten our environment."

Raymond Aghaian, who represents Leung and the UBF Group, said Leung had pleaded guilty to a count of introducing misbranded food into interstate commerce with the intent to defraud or mislead.

Leung knew about false import records prepared by a former employee of UBF Group and did not take action to prevent it, according to the plea agreement. The employee caused the introduction of millions of capsules of honeybee royal jelly, a dietary supplement, falsely described to U.S. Customs and Border Protection as "aloe vera."

The couple admitted the royal jelly was falsely described in import and export documents because their supplier, Sirio Pharma Co., did not have the regulatory certificates required for export of the honeybee products from China, according to the attorney's office.
UBF Group pleaded guilty to submitting false records for importing the seal oil and to entry of goods falsely classified, Aghaian said.

An employee of UBF Group submitted purchase invoices and import documents that falsely described 4 million seal oil soft capsules as "fish oil soft capsules," according to the plea agreement. Because of the misclassification, UBF Group avoided paying $119,000 worth of import duties.

Harp seals are protected by the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, which forbids importation of any seals or seal parts, except for scientific or educational purposes, the U.S. attorney's office said.

UBF Group was ordered to pay a $230,000 fine, forfeit $941,000 in proceeds obtained from criminal activity and pay $119,000 in restitution for import duties avoided.

ASN Group previously pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor offense of introducing mislabeled food into interstate and foreign commerce and was sentenced to pay a $30,000 criminal fine.
Sirio Pharma Co., which had pleaded guilty to wildlife trafficking, was ordered to pay $500,000 in fines and penalties.

Sirio Pharma admitted that employees of Nu-Health Products asked the supplier to falsely label certain products, including harp seal oil and honeybee products and invoice shipments of various dietary products in a way that helped the company disguise the costs of the products.

"This case is a victory for protected species everywhere," said Eileen Sobeck, assistant administrator for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries department. "Taking enforcement actions against those who violate the laws protecting marine species will always be a top enforcement priority."


Carino buying as seal hunt set to begin

By Ashley Fitzpatrick
The Telegram
March 30, 2016

Adult harp seal
An adult harp seal basks on sea ice about 30 kilometres northeast of Fogo Island. © James McLeod file photo/The Telegram

Sealers’ association president says industry outlook more positive in 2016

The company behind one of only two seal processing plants in the province has decided to buy pelts from sealers this year, following a hold on the purchases in 2015.

While the industry is still dealing with reduced markets internationally, 2016 is being viewed in a more positive light by harvesters now that Carino Processing has decided to seek 50,000 harp seals for meat, fat and hides.

“We will use these products to continue to service existing customers and new opportunities,” company CEO Dion Dakins said in a statement provided Wednesday.

The hunt is expected to open April 10 and, Dakins stated, harvesters have been made aware Carino is looking for stock.

Canadian Sealers Association president Eldred Woodford did not go out to harvest seals last year — the first time in 20 years — given a lack of demand.

However, he is considering it this year, he said.

“It looks like it’s going to be substantially better than last year,” Woodford said Tuesday, citing Carino’s plans.

It is also his understanding that the newer PhocaLux International operation in Fleur de Lys could take anywhere from 8,000 to 10,000 seals, he added.

He couldn’t speak to pricing.

“They’re still carrying an inventory of seal pelts, but in order to get meat or oil you’ve got to get new pelts in, too,” he said.

Beyond pelts, he said he believes there has been, in recent years, a greater demand domestically for seal meat.

Dakins has promoted the #HuntForFood on social media.

Sheryl Fink with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said more needs to be said about how much of the animals are actually being used for meat, domestically or otherwise.

“They’ve been trying for a long time to market the meats internationally. It hasn’t been successful,” Fink said.

“It’s an industry that’s in decline and I don’t think it’s going to be a viable industry for the future.”

While the IFAW and others oppose the hunt, the provincial Department of Fisheries said leading into the current sealing season, Minister Steve Crocker has met with local stakeholders in the industry to assure them of the government’s continued support.



The Ministers: Hunter Tootoo watching over Canada’s 3 coasts with a view from the North

By Mike Le Couteur
Global National Ottawa Correspondent
Global News
March 28, 2016

Hunter Tootoo wears seal fur
Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard is shown products made from seal as he tours an arts and crafts pavilion at the Northern Lights conference in Ottawa on Thursday, Jan. 28, 2016. Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press

Global News correspondents are sitting down with the new cabinet ministers who will shape policy in this country, to find out where they came from and where they want to take this country. Global National will air their stories in a new series called “The Ministers”.

Wearing his territory’s red and yellow and his usual bright smile, Hunter Tootoo strolls into the arena at Landsdowne park in Ottawa.

It’s 7 a.m but the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard has already been awake for two hours preparing for the work day and preparing to meet up with his old curling buddies, who secured Team Nunavut’s first ever appearance at the Brier championship.

Tootoo came to Ottawa as a politician in October of 2015, but his road to the capital nearly came through the sport he grew up playing.

The 52-year old represented the territory of Nunavut several times as a curler and he says politics and curling can both be slippery sports.

“It’s not as easy as it looks,” explained Tootoo. “It’s very challenging not only physically but mentally as well, you gotta think ahead. It’s like playing chess.”

Tootoo takes that methodical approach managing his portfolio.

Every morning, the early-riser reads voraciously making sure he knows what’s happening on all three coasts. As the first minister from a Northern community to head the Dept. of Fisheries, Oceans and the Canadian Coast Guard, Tootoo believes he has a distinct advantage.

“From my coast, I see both other coasts,” he said.

One of Tootoo’s first acts as minister was to announce the reopening of the Kitilano Coast Guard facility.

The federal budget, released last week, has earmarked $23.6 million dollars over the next five years to enhance its marine emergency response capacity.

While watching over all coasts, Tootoo hopes to bring special attention to the people of Nunavut.

Part of that is promoting the annual seal hunt, which helps the territory’s economy and is a rich part of the peoples history.

Tootoo proudly wears a seal skin tie everywhere he goes, even when he went to the White House as part of the Canadian delegation for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau‘s official visit to the United States earlier this month.

As a member of Nunavut Legislative Assembly, Tootoo fought the European ban on the export of Canadian seal products and he believes the American Marine Mammal protection act hurts northern communities.

“Those are things that really hurt Inuit in the North being able to earn a living through sustainable harvest of seal,” he said.

Still, Tootoo understands the biggest hurdle is the image of the seal hunt being a brutal slaying of wide-eyed seal pups.

“Canadians haven’t harvested, commercially, seal pups in I think 30 years. And yet, that’s the image that’s still being used out there against it.”

Tootoo hopes by educating people about the industry, it will encourage people to buy the products and boost the economy of Northern communities.

Remote communities need that boost because of the funding gaps and lack of opportunity as a result of distance from the rest of the country.

“Over the years the way funding has been doled out is traditionally on a per capita basis,” said Tootoo. “We all know that doesn’t work in the North.”

The Liberals are addressing the funding gaps of the past setting aside $8.4 billion for Indigenous communities.

Another major concern for the North is the environment.

“The effects of climate change are hitting the North twice as fast as the rest of Canada,” Tootoo told Global News.

As the proverbial canary in the coal mine, Tootoo believes the Liberal commitment to reinvest in ocean science will be a key part of tracking the impacts of climate change.

While Tootoo has some serious issues on his plate, he always seems to have a smile on his face and a joke ready to lighten the mood.

On a recent visit to an aboriginal school in Ottawa, Tootoo quipped the space between Government and Opposition parties in the House of Commons is traditionally two sword lengths.

“So that in the old days they couldn’t get at each other with a sword.

Tootoo firmly believes in keeping that sense of humour while doing such serious business.

“In this line of work, you have to have a sense of humour or else they’re going to take you out in a straight jacket, right?”



Human gawkers causing stressed seal moms to miscarry pups at Casa Beach

March 18, 2016

BREAKING: Harbor seal pup miscarriages and abandonment due to human gawkers entering protected rookery space on Casa Beach. Ongoing harassment and murder of protected sea lions in the La Jolle Cove area. The Wildlife Conservation Examiner speaks to wildlife advocate Andrea Else Hahn to gain insight into why federally protected seals and sea lions are being harassed and even killed in California.

This tourist guide of La Jolla Children's Pool, also known as Casa Beach, in San Diego, describes what should be a magical place, with sun worshipers, bikers, hikers and sight-seers sharing the beach's beautiful sand and waters with harbor seals and other spectacular wildlife. All that is needed is a little compassion, a little understanding. One can admire the seals through binoculars or the zoom feature of a camera. People do not have to tread right next to (or on top of) wildlife to enjoy the beach. However, human nature being what it is, instead of paradise, California beaches are becoming war zones. Pressured wildlife tries to hold it's own against an ever-increasing human onslaught as urbanization alters or destroys critical habitat areas, resulting in conflict and sometimes aggression on both sides. Humans, with their entrenched sense of entitlement, want their wishes to take priority over the well being of the animals. There is much to be considered on both sides, but bearing in mind that the population of humans is increasing at a heart-stopping pace, demanding more of everything - land, resources, convenience, comfort, profit - it's easy to see how hapless wildlife loses.

The animals just want to survive, to carry out their ancient dance, as they are meant to, as they have a right to, in a world steadily encroaching on them - human activity changing or destroying everything they hold dear. Tragic seal deaths are making headlines as people (in violation of a federal law protecting marine mammals) harass the animals during pup season, tripping over them, petting them, taking selfies with them. Some, who don't want to share the beach with any wildlife, who can't stand the noise, sights or smells of nature, or who feel the animals drive away business, cross rope barriers at night to deliberately kill protected sea lions in La Jolla . "There were numerous sea lions found in La Jolla who had been shot, probably by fishermen, and gaffed (which is sort of a harpoon / hook to bring the huge tuna in with). 5 seal puppies, 8 months old, were knifed in October of 2004 when the rookery became an open beach just after reserve was taken away and shared usage started. One survivor, Honey Bell has had 6 puppies at the rookery hence. Sea Lions found shot along La Jolla in recent times presumably by fishermen. Also gaffed/ harpoon with a hook for bringing in Tuna," say's Andrea Hahn, a wildlife advocate in the La Jolla area.

If you were about to give birth, wouldn't you like - even need - a little privacy? Yet, at this time in their lives when they are stressed and most vulnerable, humans won't give protected marine mammals a break. Instead of privacy, peace and quiet, the pinnipeds have become unwilling star attractions - and the attention is costing tender lives. There may be signs posted around the rookery/former Children's Pool Beach, letting people know this is a place for wildlife, and to please respect the animals, but even despite a game warden's repeated requests to leave the animals alone, curious human throngs keep coming - with disastrous consequences. People bumble right into the designated, protected rookery, stepping (inadvertently, it would be hoped) on pups, stressing new or pending Moms and in general creating a hazard for newborn survival. One distraught mother harbor seal, feeling overwhelmed by the intruding humans, even clambered onto dangerous rocks to have her baby as far from the human meddlers as she could, resulting in the new pup nearly getting lodged in the deep crevasses - which would have been fatal.

The issue reaches beyond Children's Cove and harbor seals, however. Google describes La Jolla Cove as "Cozy stretch of sand tucked between sandstone cliffs for swimmers, snorkelers & scuba divers." But in reality, it is historically a haul-out site for California sea lions - Animals with an ancient claim to these lands, being squeezed out now by thoughtless (and sometimes vindictive) humans. "They (sea lions) are migratory pinnipeds and travel to the channel islands to give birth in June/ July. The bluffs along the La Jolla Cove are their haul outs . . . A sea lion was found on the La Jolla cove bluff with a fishing gaffe (stuck in it). This happened out to sea and was done by a fisherman. I have video of a puppy crying for his momma after being rescued near death at the rookery, a harbor seal puppy who has been abandoned." Life is increasingly challenging for marine mammals. "Not only are they losing their 8 month old puppies, but their unborn puppies as well. There are one or two stillborns at the cove every day and born way too soon."

Sea lions at La Jolla Cove are suffering from a convergence of weather, industrial-fishing related starvation events and increasing conflict with humans on the beaches - And it seems people are unwilling to relinquish space back to these protected animals who have used these ancestral grounds for far longer than humans have had a toe in the New World.

Some people want to drive all wildlife from these special breeding grounds, and are willing to kill some (in blatant violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act) to do it. They seem to feel it is within their rights to banish all wildlife from a place that has supported generations of sea lions (and other animals) from time immemorial. Humans, it seems, have lost their connection to, and tolerance for, anything outside of themselves - bison, wolves, otters, sage grouse, prairie chickens, prairie dogs, and even owls, all being exterminated to assuage human interests.

La Jolla wildlife advocate Andrea Else Hahn, who provided materials for this breaking story, explains what we see in the photos and videos. "Seals and Sea Lions are mutually harassed. . . People have been going on the beach at night regularly and have caused many abandonments. Sugar Puff was a premature harbor seal puppy who died waiting for Sea World to rescue him. South Casa has the harassment in the daytime, so you can guess what happens at night on the closed beach. Shoe prints tell the tale almost every night."

Infuriated by public conduct which is, she observed, inflamed by the carnival-atmosphere of places like Sea World, Hahn explained: "In San Diego, as an example to the public we have Marine Life exhibits such as Sea World, that represent such falsehoods to the largely uneducated public as to the natural behavior of marine mammals such as Harbor Seals and Sea Lions in the wild. After seeing these misrepresentations, the public eagerly comes to these Rookery/ Nesting areas with a corrupted sense of purpose, prepared to comport themselves as a family on vacation within a wild animal's nest, but having, in reality, the effect of rabid pack of vultures."

Hahn goes on to explain, "The Harbor Seals have a Rookery (nest) / Haul Out at Casa Beach and Sea Lioness at the La Jolla Cove area. Casa Beach is closed to the public, but not South Casa nor the La Jolla Cove area. . . .The primary problem is twofold. For the Sea Lions, the El Nino ( warm ocean water) and extensive over fishing, has emptied their food supply of fatty small schooling fish such as sardines and anchovies. The Harbor Seal has a more varied diet, but constant harassment such as you see at South Casa when the beach is open to the public (when it is not pupping season, especially during the two thee months prior), frightens them into the ocean and they get no land rest. I have some videos of this. The Sea Lions (are) also denied land rest by the La Jolla lobby composed of the local restaurants who don't like their smell. They have been harassed on bluffs that were once fenced-off to the public over falling hazards. Since a gate was put in to allow the public to harass the sea lions for selfies, several people have fallen to their deaths.in the immediate area of La Jolla. San Diego is hypocrisy complete."

The U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) protects all marine mammals, including cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), pinnipeds (seals and sea lions), sirenians (manatees and dugongs), sea otters, and polar bears within the waters of the United States, making it illegal to "take" marine mammals without a permit. This means people 'may not harass, feed, hunt, capture, collect, or kill any marine mammal or part of a marine mammal.' Knowing this, why are harassing humans not stopped, fined or jailed?

For a sobering overview of recent marine-life calamities in California (all likely linked to human activities), click here. Speak out for the pinnipeds (seals and sea lions). Sign this petition to stop the harassment of seals at Casa Beach, here.

All photos and video courtesy Andrea Else Hahn. The Wildlife Conservation Examiner would like to extend a heartfelt 'Thank You" to Andrea for untiring help and support not just during the writing of this article, but on behalf of the Marine Mammals of La Jolla.



Stop, mum! Doting mother seal TICKLES her pup on the tummy as it tries to stop her with its flippers

Seal mother tickles pup - Elmar Weiss
Touching bond: Lying on the sand, the seal gazes down at her fluffy baby as it playfully wriggles around underneath her flipper and tries to resist just as human children do when playing with their parents

March 17, 2016

Mother seal tickles her pup in Heligoland, Germany, and the young one tries to wriggle away just like human children do.

Captured by photographer Elmar Weiss, 46, who stalked the seals for three days to picture the heart-warming scenes.

He said he has never before seen such a 'loving bond' between seal and pup, as young are asleep most of the time .

A doting seal was pictured tickling her pup in rare photos capturing the incredible bond between mothers and their young.

Lying on the sand, the seal gazes down at her fluffy baby as it playfully wriggles around underneath her flipper.

And just as human children do, the pup seems to be trying to escape its mother's playful games but can't get away.

Seal mother plays with pup - Elmar Weiss
Lean on me: The pup is powerless as it is tickled by its mother in heart-warming scenes captured by 46-year-old photographer Elmar Weiss on a beach in Heligoland, Germany

The heart-warming scene was captured by 46-year-old photographer Elmar Weiss on a beach in Heligoland, Germany.

Elmar, of Hamburg, Germany says: 'I have never seen such a loving bond between a seal and her baby before.

'The seal was tickling her pup and playfully rolling it from side to side.

'The pup appeared to be resisting her with its tiny flippers- just like human children do.

'I couldn't help but smile, the whole scene was just so sweet.'
Elmar was twenty metres away from the pair and waited patiently for three days to photograph their cute bonding session.

Seal mom with pup - Elmar Weiss
Rare insight: Elmar Weiss stalked the seals for three days to capture the rare and incredibly human scenes of them playing together. Such scenes are rarely seen as pups spend the vast majority of their time sleeping

He says: 'It's actually really rare to capture a moment like this because baby seals sleep so much.

'This particular pup was only awake for twenty minutes before falling back to sleep for hours.

'I couldn't believe my luck when I spotted them playing around in the sand.
'The mother was being so affectionate to her baby- it was wonderful to watch.'
At birth, grey seal pups are covered in long, cream fur before changing colour as they grow into adulthood.

A bond is formed between mother and pup at birth, and a mother can recognise her pup from its call and smell.


Federal law to ban feeding, disturbing seals

Louise Dickson
Times Colonist
March 10, 2016

harbor seal - Darren Stone
A harbour seal looks out of the water at Fisherman's Wharf in Victoria on Thursday, March 10, 2016. Photograph By DARREN STONE, Times Colonist

The seals were floating peacefully off Fisherman’s Wharf on Thursday afternoon — until nine-year-old Jacob Fonseca approached with fish and the quiet was shattered by shrieking seagulls.

“It’s exciting,” said Jacob, who was on a March break visit from Vancouver. “I think it’s always cool to see wildlife in action.”

The fun could soon be over if proposed changes to the marine mammal regulations of the Fisheries Act are introduced into law. The changes, the result of Canada-wide consultations by Fisheries and Oceans that began in 2003, state that no one should feed, touch, swim or interact with marine mammals.

For more than a decade, Fisheries officers have tried to dissuade the public from feeding seals at local tourist spots such as the Oak Bay Marina and Fisherman’s Wharf.

Seals should be foraging for their own food, said communications officer Lara Sloan. Feeding seals makes them dependent and can make them more aggressive. In 2009, a five-year-old girl was snatched off a dock and dragged underwater by a seal at a West Vancouver marina, and there have been other incidents where people were bitten.

The existing legislation states that no one shall disturb marine animals, Sloan said.

“As it stands, it could be considered a disturbance to feed a marine mammal. But for a Fisheries officer to charge someone, the department would have to prove that it’s a disturbance,” she said.

“It could take years of scientific study and a lot of observation, and sometimes it’s really difficult work to do.

“But we do know it impacts the seal’s life processes. An overweight seal has a lot of trouble hauling out of the water if it’s trying to get away from a predator.”

The marine mammal amendments, which will clarify the issue for the courts, were published in the Canada Gazette at the end of December and are awaiting final approval, Sloan said.

“It’s almost there.”

Once the amendments become law, Fisheries officers will enforce the no-feeding regulation, Sloan said.

“We still say people shouldn’t feed the seals,” she said.

“On spring breaks, feeding the seals is a really popular thing to do and people like to do it. But it’s not good for the seals. And it can pose a danger to people and children.”

Harbour seals are listed as species of special concern under the Species At Risk Act.




Activists urge Justin Trudeau to phase out Canada's failing seal industry
The government claims the seal-fur industry is lucrative, but protesters argue it costs more to monitor the practice than the hunts generate in revenue

By Oliver Milman
March 9, 2016

Seal hunt - Stewart Cook
Canada’s annual seal hunt. Photograph: Stewart Cook/Rex

Justin Trudeau’s government has come under renewed pressure to ban seal hunting after it emerged that Canada is spending far more on monitoring seal hunts than it receives in the export value of seal products.

Documents obtained under freedom of access laws show that Canada spends around $2.5m a year to monitor seal hunts that occur in the remote north-east. By comparison, the 2014 export figure for seal products was just $500,000.

The documents reveal that government officials at Fisheries and Oceans Canada discussed ways to combat campaigns opposed to the seal hunts. The 2009 files suggest that a new strategy was needed to “educate” people of the benefits of the hunt.

Sealers and animal welfare groups have been locked in fierce disagreement over the economic and ethical merits of the seal hunt for decades. But activists hope there can now be a breakthrough with Canada’s new Liberal government, elected in 2015. Prime minister Trudeau was recently lobbied by actor Pamela Anderson to phase out government subsidies that prop up the struggling sealing industry.

Last year, Canada’s government set a quota of 468,000 harp, hooded, and grey seals to be killed for the year. However, the market for Canadian seal fur isn’t what it once was, hampered by a 2009 European Union ban on the trade due to welfare concerns. Canada appealed the ban to the World Trade Organization, but lost in 2014. The US has also shut down its involvement in the trade of seal products.

While seal numbers have rebounded – harp seals now number 7.3 million, three times the 1970s population – the sealing industry has contracted. It’s estimated that there are fewer than 400 active sealers now, down from nearly 6,000 in 2006.

The Canadian government and the seal-fur industry maintain that the practice is necessary as it generates around $35m a year in knock-on economic benefits. The regional government of Newfoundland and Labrador, where much of the hunting occurs, also states that the hunt “brings balance to the marine ecosystem” because of the large number of fish eaten by seals.

Hunts are regulated to ensure that seals are killed quickly using a high-powered rifle, a club, or a hunting tool called a hakapik, which is a wooden staff with a hook at the end. But conservationists claim the regulations are inadequate and the sealing industry should be phased out.

“The hunt happens in an area larger than France in a very harsh, remote location,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of the Humane Society International-Canada, which obtained the government documents. “It’s very expensive to monitor this hunt, and it’s impossible to ensure a humane death in conditions like these. The regulations even allow people to hook conscious animals onboard with a metal spike, which no one would consider humane.

“The industry makes no economic sense. We know the seal hunt would have ended years ago if it was left to the market. We know our campaign is winning and we are now at a crossroads. We need to all move forward together beyond commercial sealing.”

The Humane Society has proposed a buy-out of existing sealing licenses, with financial help for fishermen to transition to other areas. But the Canadian government has given no indication it would support such a plan.

A spokeswoman for Fisheries and Oceans Canada said sealing is “important economic and cultural activity in communities in Atlantic Canada, Quebec, and the Arctic.

“Canadian harvesting practices are among the best in the world. They are guided by rigorous animal welfare principles that are internationally recognized by virtually all independent observers. We monitor the seal harvest closely and are committed to enforcing the regulations.”

The spokeswoman said the EU ban had “negatively impacted” exports, but that the government was committed to opening up new markets for seal fur.



Riverhead Foundation: Sickly Seal Beached in Montauk Died After Being 'Harassed'

By Taylor K. Vecsey
East Hampton Star
March 8, 2016

harp seal at Montauk beach - Riverhead Foundation
This harp seal, found on a Montauk beach Saturday, died in transit to the Riverhead Foundation for Marine Preservation and Research. The yearling was sick, but biologists said being touched and picked up by the public added to its stress. Photo: Riverhead Foundation

Marine biologists are still trying to determine what caused a harp seal found beached in Montauk to die, though they are cautioning against the public touching stranded seals, which is what happened to this particular one on Saturday.

The Riverhead Foundation for Marine Research and Preservation said the seal died as it was being transported to its hospital facility. The foundation had received several calls on its 24-hour hotline about the seal, along the ocean, about a quarter-mile east of the Sloppy Tuna. When the team arrived around 11:30 a.m., it found that the male yearling harp seal was being "harassed by the public, with people taking the seal out of the water, petting it, and wrapping it up, all of which cause great stress to marine animals," the foundation wrote on its Facebook page over the weekend.

While a necropsy still hadn't been performed yet, initial blood work showed the seal suffered from dehydration and low blood glucose levels, Rachel Bosworth, a spokeswoman for the foundation, said on Monday. But the harassment caused additional stress, she said. "Harassment does have adverse effects on the animals that may already be in a compromised state of health," she said. Feeding or harassing marine mammals is illegal and harmful, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. More information is available by clicking here.

The foundation's hotline is 631-369-9829.



P.E.I. coast will see fewer harp seals this season
Harp seals may have relocated to northeast coast of Newfoundland

Harp seal pup with mother
A young harp seal (front) and its mother make their way along the ice off the coast of Cape Breton. The small amount of ice off the P.E.I. coast will mean fewer harp seals will be seen this season. (Jonathan Hayward/Canadian Press)

CBC News
Feb 29, 2016

Harp seals will not be as plentiful off the coast of Prince Edward Island, say officials from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

DFO research scientist Mark Hammill said the small amount of ice is the reason the harp seals, now in the pupping season, may have relocated to the northeast coast of Newfoundland.  

"So we probably expect fewer pups would be born in the Gulf, that is there are fewer harp seal pups that would be born in the Gulf. Of those that are born, probably mortality would be high because the ice is very poor. It's very unstable. It's not very thick," said Hammill.

"So if there is any wind activity, the animals will be thrown into the water, the pads will break up and so there wouldn't be very much for them to haul out on."

Hammill said this year's ice conditions are similar to 2010.

The research scientist said any seals that are seen along the shore this year will likely be grey seals. Those seals pup in January and February.

Hammill adds anyone who does encounter a seal should leave it alone. Under the Marine Mammals Regulations it is illegal to disturb seals.



Pamela Anderson asks Trudeau to cut federal aid for seal hunt

Pam Anderson
Pamela Anderson, actress and animals rights defender, displays photos during a news conference at the French National Assembly to protest the force-feeding of geese used in the production of foie gras, in Paris, France, Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2016. (AP / Francois Mori)

Andy Blatchford,
The Canadian Press
February 29, 2016

OTTAWA -- Pamela Anderson is hoping Prime Minister Justin Trudeau will hear her out on behalf of seals.

In a letter to Trudeau, the Canadian-born actress asks him to meet her to discuss phasing out or ending federal subsidies for the East Coast commercial seal hunt.

Anderson writes in the letter obtained by The Canadian Press that Ottawa has poured millions of taxpayers' dollars into propping up the fading industry.

The honorary director of the PETA animal-rights group says the money could be better spent promoting businesses with a brighter future that would help the world see Canada as a sophisticated, enlightened country.

The former star of the TV series "Baywatch" is among several prominent figures including U.S. President Barack Obama and music legend Paul McCartney who have spoken out against the hunt.
Anderson notes that major markets such as the European Union, the United States and Russia have all banned seal-fur products over animal-welfare concerns.

With limited market options, the commercial hunt in Canada has shrunk in recent years. Hunters landed 38,000 harp seals last year, compared with 55,000 in 2014 and 91,000 in 2013.

The former Conservative government steadfastly defended the commercial hunt as beneficial for local economies, humane and well regulated. In recent years, the federal government has invested in programs to promote seal meat in domestic and foreign markets.

Critics have long insisted it's a cruel, unnecessary slaughter.

Anderson wrote in her letter to Trudeau on Monday that she admires his progressive views on LGBT rights, his compassionate stance on the Syrian refugee crisis and his decision to name a gender-balanced cabinet.

"There's another issue that has sullied Canada at home and abroad for years, which I hope you'll address: wasteful government bailouts of the nearly extinct East Coast commercial seal trade," she wrote.

"I urge you to usher in a new era of fiscal responsibility and kindness by ending federal subsidies of the commercial seal slaughter...

"I hope to hear that you will be available in the coming weeks to discuss this important issue in a more official setting."



Marin wildlife specialists urge beach visitors to stay away from harbor seals

By Mark Prado
Marin Independent Journal
Feb. 29, 2016

Pacific harbor seal pup
A Pacific harbor seal pup is photographed at the Marine Mammal Center just a few days after birth. (Ingrid Overgard - Marine Mammal Center)

Adorable harbor seal pups are starting to dot Marin’s beaches and wildlife officials are urging people to leave them alone.

The Point Reyes National Seashore and the Marine Mammal Center say harbor seal pups, born in late winter and early spring, could suffer permanent harm if they are moved or if their mothers are scared off.

“If you see mothers and pups, the first thing to do is remove yourself from the area,” said Dave Zahniser, rescue and rehabilitation manager at the mammal center. “If people get close, they can flush the mothers into the water.”

Visitors should never pick up a seal pup that may look abandoned as most often it is waiting for its mother to return.

“It can begin a cycle that leads to abandonment: people scare off the mother, then see a pup by itself and they want to help, someone tries to move the animal or pick it up and it becomes less likely the mother will return,” Zahniser said.

To ensure that harbor seals are not disturbed, visitors are asked to stay at least 100 yards away from resting seals. Pups are about 2 feet long and weigh about 24 pounds. Females generally give birth on sandy beaches or rocky reefs to a single pup, which nurses for three to four weeks.

If people see a marine mammal in distress they should call the mammal center at 415-289-SEAL and it will send a trained responder to assess the situation and perform a rescue if needed. Seven harbor seals are already being treated at the center.

Beginning Tuesday through June 30, the annual closure of Drakes Estero to the westernmost point of Limantour Spit will be implemented to protect the harbor seals.

“All recreational water access in Drakes Estero is closed during this season,” said John Dell’Osso, chief of interpretation at Point Reyes National Seashore.

The closure applies to kayak and canoe usage, surfers, wind surfers, abalone divers and other water sports participants around harbor seal colonies in the area.

Point Reyes National Seashore has the largest mainland breeding colony of harbor seals in California. Resting and pupping harbor seals come onshore in various parts of the park, particularly in Tomales Bay, Tomales Point, Double Point, Drakes Estero and Bolinas Lagoon. Seals are federally protected animals under the Marine Mammal Protection Act and it is illegal to disturb them while resting.

Last year, more than 3,700 harbor seals were counted, 1,050 of which were pups. The number of seals breeding at Point Reyes represents around 20 percent of the California mainland population estimate.



Grey seal pup hit by vehicle in Nova Scotia, being treated for injuries

Feb. 12, 2016
By Aly Thomson
Hamilton Spectator

Injured grey seal pup
SEAL IN TUB Darren Calabrese,The Canadian Press Hope for Wildlife's Lynn Roger, left, and Hope Swinimer bottle feed an injured grey seal pup, originally named Sammy, but now named Valentine, at the facility in Seaforth, N.S., on Friday.

SEAFORTH, N.S. — A grey seal pup that was hit by a vehicle on a Nova Scotia road is being treated for serious injuries at a wildlife centre.

The seal, tentatively named Sammy, whimpered as he was carefully placed in a white tub surrounded by fleece blankets. It arrived at Hope for Wildlife in Seaforth early Thursday afternoon after spending the night in a nearby emergency clinic.

Hope Swinimer, operator of the facility just outside Halifax, said the marine mammal was found on a road in Pictou County by an RCMP officer late Wednesday.

Swinimer said the 20-day-old furry grey seal pup with dark spots and a long nose has an injured pelvis and is underweight.

"The first thing we'll do is get him rehydrated," said Swinimer, just after gently spilling Sammy into a large tub from his black carrying crate.

Injured grey seal pup
SEAL CLOSEUP Darren Calabrese,The Canadian Press An injured grey seal pup, originally named Sammy, but now named Valentine, rests at Hope for Wildlife in Seaforth, N.S., on Friday. Valentine made it through her first night after the facility's operator Hope Swinimer says the marine mammal was found on a road in Pictou County by an RCMP officer late Wednesday evening.

"The worst thing you can do is feed an animal as soon as he arrives because food can actually overwhelm them and cause death. So we'll start with some clear hydration electrolytes and get him hydrated every couple of hours."

Sammy waved his head back and forth and moaned as the wildlife workers carefully held him down to give him fluids. The seal, with large black eyes and black whiskers, was to be hosed down and gently cleaned later Thursday.

Swinimer said if he survives, he'll stay at Hope for Wildlife until he's fully rehabilitated — roughly four to five months.

"He'll be here until he gets to be about 40 kilograms," said Swinimer of the seal, who's currently about 12 kilograms.

"He has to be swimming well. He's got to be able to find fish and eat them totally on his own. We have big pools outside, so once he's through the critical stage, we'll get him moved out to a bigger unit where he can swim."

The Canadian Press



Loss of federal grant may mean hardship for stranded or injured harbor seal pups

Feb 12, 2016

Wolf Hollow Wildlife Rehabilitation has discontinued its marine mammal rehabilitation program for 2016 due to the loss of a federal grant.

The program, which cares for stranded or injured harbor seal pups, has been a part of Wolf Hollow for the last 30 years.

“It’s hard to think that we’ll have to turn them away this year,” said Wolf Hollow Executive Director Julie Duke. “That’s the hardest thing, especially for the staff that’s been caring for them for so long. Hopefully there won’t be a lot of pups that need care this year.”

The John H. Prescott Marine Mammal Rescue Assistance Grant Program from National Oceanic Atmospheric Association is meant specifically for marine mammal rehab and stranding networks, and comes with “stringent regulations and standards” that are “time consuming and costly,” according to a press release from Wolf Hollow. The grant funds vary from year to year, and is a national grant funding source.

“There’s a lot of competition, and everybody is doing really great work, all the stranded networks need funds,” Duke said.

The marine mammal rehabilitation program cared for an average of 22 seal pups annually, at a cost of $3,000 per pup. After being contacted by stranded networks, Wolf Hollow re-hydrates the pups and attends to any wounds or infections the pups have, and feeds them every four hours when they first receive them.

Initially they live in a tub, and then as they regain their strength they are moved into a small pool, then a deeper pool, and fed fish when their digestive system is working. When the pups reach their target weight, they are released with identification tags attached to them, designed to fall off after a period of time.

Duke said that every other aspect of Wolf Hollow will remain the same, as they continue to care for injured or abandoned animals that they receive. The center is currently looking at other ways to gain funding in order to resume the marine mammal rehabilitation program in 2017.

“We are aware that a growing number of harbor seal pups are orphaned, injured or displaced each year due to the increase of human visitation to the San Juan Islands and neighboring counties,” the Wolf Hollow press release said. The program receives stranded pups from all over, this summer receiving some from Whatcom County in addition to Lopez and Orcas.

The season with the highest number of stranded seal pups is during the summer, late June through July, during harbor seal breeding season. For islanders who find harbor seal pups stranded locally, call the San Juan County Marine Mammal Stranding Network at (800) 562-8832 or email them at hotline@whalemuseum.org.



Locals raise a glass, money for Marine Mammal Stranding Center

Feb. 12, 2016
Staff Reports
Somers Point, NJ

Marine Mammal Stranding Center fundraiser

About 200 people enjoyed an evening out Feb. 5 at the Sandi Point Coastal Bistro in Somers Point to raise money for the Brigantine Marine Mammal Stranding Center.

They sampled more than 50 varieties of wine and beer provided by Circle Liquors of Somers Point.

The event raised more than $6,000.

The Marine Mammal Stranding Center, the state’s only facility dedicated to the rescue of sick and injured marine mammals and sea turtles,

relies heavily on donations to operate and is preparing for the busy seal season.

On Sunday, the center began caring for its first patient of 2016.

A female harp seal from Sandy Hook was brought to the center after it was found eating sand on the beach. It is now getting the food and medical care it needs before it can be released back to the sea.

The MMSC offers an Adopt a Seal program. For $25, a donor receives an adoption certificate, photo, and story of the seal helped by the donation. The money helps pay for food and medication.

For program information see www.mmsc.org/ways-to-donate/adopt-a-seal.



St Abbs seal pup numbers on the up

February 11, 2016

Grey seal nursery UK
SBBN seals at St Abbs

Monitoring by National Trust for Scotland experts shows the number of grey seal pups born at St Abbs increased by at least 10 per cent last year.

The conservation charity has kept an eye on its seal pups each November for a number of years, but only started detailed monitoring of the numbers of the grey seal pups in 2014 when local staff started to notice that they were seemingly spreading along the coast.

Visual counts backed up by detailed photography showed that on the main pupping beach, the number of grey seal pups had increased from 556 in 2014 to 631 pups in 2015. Total numbers of pups in this area of coast reached 927 pups in 2015. The monitoring work will continue over the next few years to see if this growing trend in seal pup numbers is short or long-term.

Liza Cole, property manager at St Abb’s Head, said: “Scotland and the UK hold over 40 per cent of the world population of this species.

“It is good to see so many pups on our beaches, as the grey seal is actually one of the world’s rarest. Grey seals are such a regular sight along our coasts, it is actually quite hard to appreciate this fact at times.”

“However, it is not clear what our counts mean for the grey seal population as a whole at this time as many seal pups won’t last their first year.”

Lindsay Mackinlay, nature conservation adviser added: “The figures for seal pups are interesting and encouraging, and something we will keep an eye on in the foreseeable future. At this time, it appears that other grey seal colonies along the east coast of the UK have witnessed large numbers of seal pups being born in 2015, although we do not know for how long this trend will continue. I believe the Farne Islands colony saw similar increases but the seal pup counts at Blakeney Point in Norfolk remained stable in 2015 after several years of massive growth.”

The pups will stay with their mothers for about a month until they learn to fish for themselves.



Starving sea lion found in Marine Room remains in SeaWorld’s care

Malnourished sea lion pup San Diego
Sea lion hangs out in La Jolla restaurant. (The Marine Room)

Feb. 10, 2016
Fox5 Digital Team and Jason Sloss

SAN DIEGO – The adorable, yet extremely malnourished sea lion pup found sleeping in a restaurant booth in La Jolla is still in SeaWorld San Diego's care Wednesday.

Veterinarians and animal care specialists at the park said they are cautiously optimistic about her recovery and listed her in "stable and guarded condition''. The young pup was extremely malnourished, dehydrated and suffering from an eye injury when found Thursday.

Video of her rescue at the iconic Marine Room restaurant, which is famous for waves slapping at the dining room's main window, went viral on social media.

The pup named "Marina'' is being cared for at the park's Animal Rescue Center, along with dozens of other rescued sea lions and seals. She has gained four pounds and now weighs 24 pounds.

Marina's weight was about half of what it should have been when she was discovered, park officials said.

Malnourished sea lion pup San Diego
Sea lion hangs out in La Jolla restaurant. (The Marine Room)

Animal care staff said she is improving gradually. Veterinary tests found some inflammation, but nothing too worrisome and no other signs of infection or illness, according to SeaWorld.

An approximately one year-old elephant seal is also resting at SeaWorld after a rescue at Windansea Beach in La Jolla where she was found with a severe bite wound.

“Looks like a shark bite -- starts from the belly button all the way down, where her flippers are," said Jennifer Zarate, an animal care specialist at SeaWorld.

So far this year, SeaWorld San Diego has rescued 60 marine mammals -- 53 sea lions, six harbor seals and one Guadalupe fur seal. Last year, 1,057 marine mammals, including 990 California sea lions, were taken in by the park.



Update: Citizens asked to be vigilant after young seal harassed

Seal on fishing pier
The young seal resting on the dock in January. Photo: Bill Anderson

February 9, 2016

Many have been delighted by the appearance of a young seal that has taken to hauling out on the boat dock next to the Edmonds Fishing Pier since mid-December. But on Monday, a man was seen yelling at the seal, and he also threw rocks at it, said Susan Morrow, founder of the Edmonds Seal Sitters program.

“This is harmful and disruptive, and it is also against the law,” said Morrow, who notes that seals are protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972. “People who harass or interfere with marine mammals are subject to prosecution.”

Edmonds police will be investigating the incident, Morrow said.

“Seals need to come ashore daily to rest and regulate their body temperature, and this seal has found a spot where it feels secure,” she noted. “We can quietly watch the seal close up, but it is protected behind the marina fence and pier rail.”

According to Morrow, Edmonds Seal Sitters has been checking on this harbor seal regularly, but volunteers may not always be on site when the seal is resting on the boat dock. “If you see someone harassing this seal call 911,” Morrow said. “Edmonds police can best deal with someone behaving badly. Then call Edmonds Seal Sitters at 425-327-3336 for follow-up.”



Drone research to aid in seal flu study

By Doug Fraser
Feb. 7, 2016

Drones protecting us from the flu? Sounds like sci-fi, but the same hexacopter being used by seal researchers to help with population estimates is also being considered for a study looking at flu transmission in gray seals.

“There have been (seal) die-offs attributed to influenza and most have occurred in New England. We are the hotbed,” said Wendy Puryear, the lab manager and research scientist at MIT’s Runstadler Laboratory of veterinary genetics and immunology.

Those flu deaths included over 100 harbor seal pups that died in 2011 in Maine from a strain of the flu virus known to exist in waterfowl that mutated and infected the seals.

“A virus that passes over from a wild bird to a domestic bird, then may pass into humans,” Puryear said. “What we don’t know is whether it is also circulating in marine mammals.”

Seals and shorebirds share the same habitat, she explained. Gulls scavenge from dead pups and placenta, birds defecate in the sand and seals pass over it. That could result in a flu virus that has adapted to gray seals.

“It could potentially make it easier to adapt to humans,” Puryear said, although it would likely require close contact, unless there was another vector like a dog.

Adult seals are much harder to capture, tag and obtain blood, mouth and fecal fluid samples. Last month, Puryear and MIT researchers spent time on Muskeget and Monomoy as part of a long-term study on the influenza virus in gray seals. This was their third year on Muskeget and first on Monomoy to study weaned pups that are easier to capture and handle than adults.

“It turns out they are getting infected, but they are not as susceptible (to die-off),” Puryear said. Since the gray seals don’t seem to be getting sick, she thinks the risk of transmission to humans remains low.

Still, researchers would like to know how the virus is infecting the seals and how they transmit it to one another.

Fifty percent of the pups sampled on Monomoy had antibodies to the flu virus, meaning they had been exposed. By marking captured animals, drones could be used to follow the movements of infected animals and study their social habits, how they contact other seals.

“The main animal they interact with is the mom,” Puryear said. “How frequently do they interact, and how long, with other pups?”

Follow Doug Fraser on Twitter:@dougfrasercct.



Pacific Grove harbor seal pupping season off to a rough start

Feb 03, 2016
By Caitlin Conrad

Harbor seal Pacific Grove
PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. —The harbor seals of Pacific Grove are getting off to a rough start this pupping season. The seals are having babies very early and none have survived so far on Hopkins Marine Station Beach. Photo: Kim M. Akeman 2016

PACIFIC GROVE, Calif. —The harbor seals of Pacific Grove are getting off to a rough start this pupping season. The seals are having babies very early and none have survived so far on Hopkins Marine Station Beach.

Observers with Bay Net are reporting four live births this winter but none survived.

"The pups didn't live long, they were all premature, they lived from a minute, to a few minutes," said Thom Akeman with Bay Net.

Akeman said the moms are not ready to give birth this early and don't seem to have enough weight on to nurse the pups.

The first observed birth was last Monday, Jan. 25, which is quite early when compared to the first recorded birth of 2015, which was on Feb. 20.

Akeman said the animals are suffering from warm ocean temperatures that are driving their food sources too far away.

"Harbor seals are local animals, so they don't migrate up with the food supply like sea lions might, so they just stay here, if there is not enough they don't make it," Akeman said.

Bay Net volunteers are hoping next month pupping season will really start to happen and the seals will have some healthy pups.



Seal pups found with Salmonella bacteria

Feb. 1, 2016
By Jody Harrison, Reporter
Herald Scotland

GREY seal pups that have been infected with forms of the Salmonella bacteria have been found by researchers in Scotland.

Grey seal pup
Salmonella has been found in seal pups similar to this one

Tests on mammals found in Scottish waters or swept ashore discovered that around one in five carried the disease.

Scientists say that the presence of the bacteria raises questions about possible pollution of the marine environment, possible through run-off from farms or sewage being discharged into the water.

Analysis of the different strains found in the pups shows close similarities with those carried by land animals including cattle, and also people.

The study, was led by researchers from the Moredun Research Institute in Edinburgh in collaboration with the Sea Mammal Research Unit.

Others involved in the wide-ranging study included the University of St Andrews, SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, The Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme and the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland.

The team investigated the prevalence and origin of Salmonella in free-ranging and stranded grey seal pups, comparing Salmonella isolated from the grey seals with strains from human cases, livestock, wild mammals and birds.

Dr Johanna Baily of Moredun Research Institute, said: “Finding these Salmonella isolates in large marine mammals along our coastlines raises concerns of land-sea transfer of both human and livestock pathogens.

"We need to know more about how these bacteria have spread to the marine environment and what threat they represent for our native marine mammals”

The team found three types of Salmonella were found, one usually found in cattle, one that is similar to a type found in garden birds, and one which is also found in humans.

Pups that had been swum in the sea were found to be almost four times more likely to carry Salmonella compared to those which had not been in the water.

Dr Ailsa Hall, Director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit, added: “This study gives us an important insight into the factors affecting the survival of grey seal pups and the role that bacterial infection may play.

"Understanding the causes of morbidity and mortality in this species is key to improving our ability to interpret changes in the abundance and distribution of grey seals in the UK”

Dr Geoff Foster of SAC Consulting Veterinary Services, said: “This work expands on current knowledge of the ecology of an important group of pathogenic bacteria for man and animals.

"Our ongoing work with animal livestock, wild mammals and birds, alongside interactions with human health bodies, continues to explore such relationships, which are of significance for animal and public health”.



Feds pledge $150K to revive Nunavut's ailing seal industry
'It's been kind of long coming,' Nunavut environment minister says

Inuit in seal skin coat
Nunavut's seal industry got a boost this week, as the federal government announced the first $150,000 instalment of the Certification and Market Access Program for Seals in Nunavut. Photo: Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press

Jan 30, 2016
By Elyse Skura
CBC News

Nunavut's seal industry is getting a $150,000 boost from the federal government, as it works to better promote the ailing industry and take full advantage of Nunavut's exemption to the European Union's ban on seal products.

The funding is the first installment from the five-year $5.7-million Certification and Market Access Program for Seals.

"I think it's a big step between Canada and Nunavut to be able to find different ways for marketing our seal products," said Hunter Tootoo, Nunavut's MP and the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

"It's all about opening new markets for our indigenous seal products."

Tootoo, Premier Peter Taptuna and Nunavut's environment minister Johnny Mike, made the announcement in Ottawa, surrounded by Inuit artists touting their wares at the Northern Lights Conference.

PM checks out Nunavut products

Min Tootoo and Premier Taptuna
Min Tootoo, Premier Taptuna watch Nunavut seamstress display sealskin coat

The event itself, which even earned an appearance by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, can be seen as both a promotional opportunity for the industry and an opportunity for artisans to strategize on future projects.

"At these types of events, like the Northern Lights event and the Nunavut Trade Show... we explore different opportunities," said Rowena House, executive director of the Nunavut Arts and Crafts Association (NACA).

For example, the organization is working with a business in Scotland to develop a market for sealskin sporrans.

"That's the little purse that they use with their official piping uniform," she said.

That's one of a number of programs the Government of Nunavut says it will lead in collaboration with NACA.

"We'll try and do more on engaging Inuit seamstresses," said Mike, adding that some funds will be used for a training program at Iqaluit's Tukisigiarvik Society.

Untapped European market

Justin Trudeau buys seal skin
Justin Trudeau buys seal skin - NACA

Trudeau's decision to attend the conference — where he picked up a seal skin vest — "absolutely" shows the government's commitment to the industry, said Tootoo.

"The federal government, all along, has been supporting the fisheries and sealing division in our department to deliver some specific programs in our sealing programs," said Mike.

While the $150,000 is only a fraction of the multi-million dollar program, he's not concerned about the huge expense of developing a promotional strategy and developing a brand-new certification process.

"We're going to have to utilize the new funding in the best way possible, so we can open up more markets for the seal industry in Nunavut," Mike said.

"It's been kind of long coming."



Seal cull not yet warranted despite large salmon diet say researchers
Harbour seal population in the Strait of Georgia has gone from 5,000 in the 1970s to 40,000 today

Harbor seal
UBC research shows young chinook and coho salmon make up two to five per cent of the diets of harbour seals in the Strait of Georgia. Photo: Linda Kenny

Jan. 28, 2016
By On The Island
CBC News

Harbour seals off B.C.'s South Coast may consume up to 60 per cent of the Strait of Georgia's young chinook and coho salmon every year, according to UBC research.

Growing concerns about B.C.'s salmon numbers has focused on orca populations and rising water temperatures in the past, but this study suggests the dramatic increase in the harbour seal population in recent decades may play a role as well.

Still, the connection between low salmon stocks and a large harbour seal population is not clear enough to warrant a seal cull, scientists warn.

"We don't think [our results] would be grounds for a cull right now. There are just too many unknowns," said Ben Nelson, a PhD candidate at UBC's Marine Mammal Research Unit.

"We still really don't know if some other predator species might step up to fill that void."

Salmon are an important food source for many B.C. predators, including orcas and bears.

Juvenile chinook salmon
Juvenile chinook salmon make their way from the rivers where they hatched to the open ocean before returning inland as adults. Photo: Parr, University of Oregon

But understanding the specific connection between salmon and seal populations will require some complicated math.

"The next step is to use some mathematical models to combine information on the seal population and the salmon population historically... to figure out, could those changes in harbour seals explain the changes in salmon mortality over the years," said Nelson.

Collecting data

Nelson collected seal feces in the Strait of Georgia for several years and, using DNA analysis, determined that juvenile chinook and coho salmon make up two to five per cent of a harbour seal's diet.

That may not seem like a big deal, but Nelson points out juvenile salmon are small, and it would take many of them to make up even a small portion of a seal's dinner.

The harbour seal population in the Strait of Georgia has exploded from about 5,000 in the 1970s to about 40,000 today, according to Nelson.


Seal Sanctuary worried it may not cope after becoming overcrowded with orphans

Overcrowded seal sanctuary
The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is being overcrowded with orphans. Photo: Cornish Seal Sanctuary

Jan 28, 2016

A seal sanctuary in Cornwall is becoming overcrowded with orphaned seals due to recent bad weather.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary says there is a crisis in Cornwall's seal rescue network due to winter storms.




Rescued seal at sanctuary
The seal sanctuary has already rescued about 50 seals this winter. Photo: Cornish Seal Sanctuary

The sanctuary may not be able to cope after fresh storm warnings forced them to postpone the release of six grey seal pups to free up space.

The RSPCA facility in West Hatch was recently declared full, as was a smaller holding centre operated by British Divers Marine Life Rescue at St Austell.



A desperate plan to fly some seals to a Sea Life centre in Hunstanton, Norfolk, was only narrowly averted when the Sanctuary managed to free up two hospital cubicles by moving two seals out to the Nursery pool.

Overcrowded seal sanctuary
The seal sanctuary says it may not be able to cope with another influx of seals. Photo: Cornish Seal Sanctuary

Tamara Cooper, the head of animal care at the Cornish Seal Sanctuary said:
"If there is another influx of casualties before we are able to free some of our earlier patients back into the wild, we could be seriously overburdened."

“We generally rescue between 45 and 60 pups over the course of the whole winter. We have rescued 50 already this winter and they could be coming in right through to the end of March."



Lack of ice nixes baby seal tours on the Magdalen Islands
Warm winter means ice isn't thick enough to be safe for tours

Harp seal pup
Baby seal in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Photo: Andrew Vaughan/CP

Jan. 26, 2016
CBC News

A warm winter has melted plans for tourists who were hoping to get a chance to see Magdalen Island baby seals up close this year. The ice isn't solid or safe enough for observation tours.

The observation season runs from February 24 to March 11 when baby harp seals are visible on ice floes. With no cold snap in the forecast, tour organizers have decided to cancel.

Hôtels Accents, the sole company which organizes the tours, takes visitors, many of whom come from China and Japan, by helicopter to ice floes. ​

Ariane Bérubé, who is in charge of sales with the company, said clients were contacted by phone. And the company offered to help them rearrange their travel plans.

More than 60 per cent of reservations have been renewed for next year and about a dozen clients have decided to come anyway.

Bérubé said El Niño is having an impact around the world, and people expected the season to be cancelled.



Photos: Baby fur seal found in bushes at Hayward business park

Rescued norther fur seal pup
Emaciated norther fur seal found in business park Photo: Hayward Police Department

Jan. 20, 2016
By Mario Sevilla,

HAYWARD (KRON) — A curious baby seal somehow managed to waddle out of the San Francisco Bay, cross a congested East Bay highway, and hide in some bushes in Hayward.

According to police, the northern fur seal pup was discovered at about 6 a.m. Wednesday in the shrubs at a business park located at 650 Sandoval Way.

Rescued norther fur seal pup
Pipester receives a meal of fish mash via a tube inserted into his stomach. Photo: The Marine Mammal Center

“This morning a little before 6 AM, someone called from Sandoval Way to report a baby seal flopping around in the bushes at a business,” police said. “We were thinking it was probably a possum or weird cat but the caller insisted it was a seal. Well lo and behold it was a seal!”

Hayward police posted an image of the small creature on the department’s Facebook page.

The pup was found dehydrated and malnourished, police said.

Marine Mammal Center spokeswoman Laura Sherr told KRON that the center was called to the scene and realized that the animal was recently rescued.

Rescued norther fur seal pups
Pipester settles back into a pen at The Marine Mammal Center with other northern fur seal pups in rehabilitation. Photo: The Marine Mammal Center

“Once rescued, our team discovered that this animal already had an ID tag, and were able to identify him as a male northern fur seal pup called ‘Pipester’ who had previously been in the Center’s care for malnutrition,” Sherr said.

“He was originally rescued on November 7, 2015, at Moss Landing Harbor by volunteers with the Center’s Monterey Bay Operations,” according to Sherr. Pipester spent a few weeks at the Center recovering before being released late in December of 2015.

Sherr hopes to nourish and send back Pipster back into the wild as soon as possible.



Could Glacier Retreat Cause Seals to Wander?

Harbor seals on iceberg
Seals taking a break on top of a flat iceberg. Photo: Jamie Womble/National Park Service

Jan 19, 2016
By Christina Langone

Though populations of harbor seals – the captivating species seen in almost every zoo – are stable in other areas of the world, they are seeing declines in southeastern Alaska. These particular seals use icebergs calved from nearby glaciers as a place to rest and breed, but changes in ice availability are affecting these behaviors, crucial to their survival and reproduction.

Two separate studies, one by the National Park Service (NPS) and one by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADFG), have independently found that seals may be changing their distribution and behavior to match the shifting locations of ice, as glaciers retreat.

Harbor seal with GPS
Harbor seal wearing GPS tracking device used in NPS research. Photo: National Park Service

Jamie Womble, leading the NPS research in Glacier Bay, is providing a new way of relating glacier ice extent and harbor seal territory, both in location and seasonality. Womble and her team aim to find the exact distribution and movements of these Alaskan harbor seals. Aerial tracking– flying above the ice and counting the seals–is a method that works effectively in the region. They also glue GPS transmitters to the seals, and track their movements on land-based monitors. These transmitters come off safely during the next summer’s molt, so they present only minimal risk to the animals.

Womble and her team found that “[d]espite extensive migration and movements of seals away from Glacier Bay during the post-breeding season, there was a high degree of inter-annual site fidelity (return rate) of seals to Glacier Bay the following pupping/breeding season.”

Harbor seals on iceberg
Aerial image of harbor seals. Photo: National Park Service

In addition to studying the distances which the seals traveled, Womble and her group also examined the patterns of seal movement in relation to the glacial ice. The team studied the ice distribution within John Hopkins Inlet, which they coordinated with aerial tracking data to examine the relationship between the ice extent and the harbor seals.

John Hopkins Inlet, the main area of research for Womble, is home to Johns Hopkins Glacier and Gilman Glacier which are among the few advancing glaciers in this region. Seals were found to congregate in areas with the highest percentage of ice.

“Tidewater glacier fjords in Alaska host some of the largest seasonal aggregations of harbor seals in Alaska,” Womble told GlacierHub in an interview. Many of these tidewater glaciers – glaciers that run into the sea and calve frequent icebergs – are thinning, and a few have begun retreating.

John Hopkins glacier
John Hopkins glacier, one of the few advancing glaciers in southeastern Alaska. Photo: Peter Makeyev/Flikr

In particular, rapid retreat on the east side of Glacier Bay is leading to decreased seal pupping. During this critical season when the pups are newborn, mother seals and the weaning baby seals use flat icebergs to rest. “By 2008, no seals were pupping in Muir Inlet, and fewer than 200 seals were counted in McBride Inlet near the terminus of the McBride Glacier, the only remaining tidewater glacier in the East Arm of Glacier Bay,“ the NPS team stated in a recent report.

In a report, ADFG emphasizes the importance of studying “…why, how, and when harbor seals use glacial habitat, and whether the rapid thinning and retreat of Alaskan glaciers associated with climate change could negatively affect harbor seals…” Their research documented similar instances of glacier thinning and retreat and they are also monitoring seal movement, as well as other topics, including seal diet, seal weight and bodily composition and disturbances by tour vessels. Though ADFG began their work in Glacier Bay, the same site as the other team, they moved their research to Tracy Arm Ford’s Terror Wilderness Area – more than 200 miles to the southeast.

Harbor seal
Harbor seals, said to be awkward on land, use icebergs as a place of safety from predators. Photo: Jamie Womble/National Park Service

The ADFG team has attached transmitters such as SPOT to track the seals. These beam data on location, heart rate and other biological indicators up to satellites. To gather data, the researchers depend on the seals surfacing to breathe or rest, since the satellites cannot receive signals that are released underwater. The tracking for both research projects was most important during winter months, since researchers were interested in monitoring movement and feeding after the summer breeding season.

ADFG also saw regular return rates for the sea populations which they studied. They hypothesized that they may travel to find food in the winter, but still return to Glacier Bay in the summer for the safety that icebergs provide from land-based predators. Icebergs are also important sites for the animals to haul out, since many beaches are entirely covered during high tides.

The ongoing research conducted both by Womble’s group and by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game show how recent changes in glaciers have already had large effects on the seal life cycle, specifically pupping. Continued monitoring of seal reproduction and movement in the context of glacier retreat will allow for predictions of the future of this important species in a critical section of its range.



In warming ocean, record number of seals and sea lions sicken and starve
Ailing or dead seals and sea lions washed up on California beaches in record numbers in 2015; this year could be worse

Starving seal pup
Sick rescued seal pup Photo: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Jan. 6, 2016
by Azure Gilman

SAUSALITO, Calif. _ They are brought in with all sorts of problems: lockjaw, poisoning, cancer and even bullet wounds from fishermen. But most of the record number of seals and sea lions washing up on California's shores and being brought to a regional rescue center are starving.

Unprecedented warm waters off the Pacific coast over the past two years have led fish that marine mammals feed on to move to colder waters — making it difficult for seals and sea lions to nourish themselves, let alone feed their pups. With the current El Niño weather event expected to continue bringing warm water over the rest of the winter, this slow-motion catastrophe is likely to continue.

Eating themselves from inside

The Marine Mammal Center in Sausalito, just outside San Francisco, rescues 600 to 800 seals and sea lions a year on average from the 600 miles of California coastline it covers, from north of San Francisco to just above Santa Barbara County in the south.

Dead California sea lion pup
Garnet the California sea lion, deceased, arrives at the Marine Mammal Center. Photo: Azure Gilman / Al Jazeera America

But in 2015, the center was brought a record 1,799 animals — including California sea lions, Guadalupe fur seals and northern fur seals. The 106 northern fur seals it rescued more than tripled its previous record.

And the Marine Mammal Center sees only a fraction of strandings statewide. The California Marine Mammal Stranding Network, a network of independent groups overseen by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, keeps track of stranding events for both live and dead animals, including seals and sea lions, across California. In 2015, they counted more than 4,200 California sea lions, 90 Guadalupe fur seals, and 70 northern fur seals.

The center's staff began to realize something was different early in the year. Their network of volunteers and workers began bringing in distressed sea lion pups last January rather than, as usual, in summer. And the pups brought in for rescue were unlike anything the veterinarians had ever seen.

Volunteers corral seal pup
Volunteers using wooden sheilds to corrall an evasive animalAzure Gilman / Al Jazeera America

“They were basically just skin and bones,” said Dr. Shawn Johnson, director of veterinary science at the center. “Their liver, their pancreas, their intestines were basically shut down. And they were eating themselves from the inside to stay alive by the time we saw them.”

Some of the pups that had swum from the coast just north of Los Angeles up to northern California were 6 or 7 months old — but so small that they were still at their usual birth weight.

As sea lions continued to wash up in February and March, it started to sink in “that this is going to be a big year,” said Dr. Cara Field, a veterinarian at the nonprofit center.

In March, the center began to receive elephant seals that had washed up, followed by harbor seals, Guadalupe fur seals, and northern fur seals. Late December is usually a quiet time for the rescue center, but not this past December, when 91 animals were brought in.

Herring for seals
A bucket of herring, the fish that the Marine Mammal Center uses to feed their pinnipeds. Azure Gilman / Al Jazeera America

It was the worst year in the center’s 40-year history, staff said.

Starving pups

One foggy afternoon in late December, three animals were brought in a white pickup truck to the center, located at an old Cold War missile silo site with a beautiful ocean view.

Each of the sea mammals had been named by the volunteers and staff who brought them. Gary Christmas, a California sea lion, peered with large almond-shaped eyes through the top bars of his crate, his body arched and nose in the air.

Jack Furst, a tiny northern fur seal pup, stayed still and silent.

Garnet, a small sea lion, had a plastic bag wrapped around his head, his small body lying in a curve at the bottom of the crate. He was dead.

Sea lions give birth in summer on the Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. The pups then nurse from their mothers for nearly a year. Normally, sea lion mothers go out to hunt for fish for two to four days, eat, come back and nurse their pups, and go back out for more food. In 2015, however, scientists found that mothers were gone for much longer time periods and nursing for much shorter ones.

“Eventually the pups were like, ‘I need more,’” Johnson said. “They’re taking the big plunge into the big ocean because they’re starving to death.”

Only half the usual number of sea lion pups were born off the California coast in 2015, Johnson said. And the sea lion and northern fur seal pups born on the Channel Islands in 2015 had among the lowest weights recorded in more than 40 years, according to a recent NOAA press release. It is exactly those underweight pups who throw themselves into the ocean seeking food and later wash up on beaches, rescuers said.

Animals rescued from the beaches of northern California — or the occasional one that wanders onto the streets of San Francisco — often end up in the Marine Mammal Center’s outdoor pens, which are equipped with pools and warming mats. Veterinarians and a small army of volunteers feed the animals herring caught in Alaska. If the animals can’t eat, they are tube-fed a smoothie made of herring, salmon oil and sometimes milk powder. There is a strict no-talking rule among staff and volunteers — so that the animals don’t become too accustomed to humans and thus have better chances of survival when returned to the ocean.

2016 could be as bad or worse

Though 2015 was a record year, the warming of parts of the Pacific Ocean and the resulting deleterious effects on seals and sea lions began before the onset of the current El Niño effect.

An area of warm ocean water many scientists call “the blob” began forming off the U.S. West Coast in 2013. A second area of warm water — unofficially referred to in some circles as “El Blobo” — has formed off Mexico, said Toby Garfield, director of the environmental research division at NOAA.

“In these two patches of warm water we were getting surface temperatures that were up to three to four degrees centigrade warmer than normal,” Garfield said. “A lot of the forage fish that the sea lions and fur seals were going after migrated outside of their regular areas.”

The warm water also likely contributed to the largest toxic algae bloom ever recorded. Pseudo-nitzschia, a type of algae that produces domoic acid, was both more plentiful and produced domoic acid with a higher toxicity, according to Garfield. When this algae makes its way up the food chain, domoic acid can cause seizures and other brain problems, mostly in sea lions. Sea lions with domoic acid poisoning have only about a 30 percent survival rate at the Marine Mammal Center.

The cyclical El Niño weather pattern, characterized in part by warm ocean water, began in fall 2015 and is expected to last well into 2016. It is unclear exactly how this will affect pinnipeds on the West Coast, but veterinarians at the Marine Mammal Center are bracing for the worst.

“If it continues, if this is the new normal, the sea lion population and the fur seal population in California are going to have severe drops in their overall population,” Johnson said. With fewer fish to hunt in their usual waters, he said, “they’re going to have to adapt.”



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