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article imagePredictions for 2010 seal hunt: Few hunters, record low takes

By Stephanie Dearing     Apr 7, 2010 in Environment
Just as the Canadian seal hunt is about to get underway on April 8 in Newfoundland, Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans is being criticized for allowing the hunt to proceed.
St. John's, NL - The issue, according to conservationists, is the lack of sea ice and the thousands of dead dying seal pups. But ask the sealers what the issue is, and they'll tell you it's depressed prices, a lack of buyers for the furs, and left-over stock from previous years that is the issue. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, however, has not only allowed the hunt to proceed, fueling the anger of conservationists, the DFO has allowed sealers to take a higher catch this year, puzzling hunters. Newfoundland sealing spokesman Frank Pinhorn said it was likely less hunters would participate this year.
While much of Canada's problem in finding markets for seal products is a result of Europe's ban of Canadian seal products, PInhorn blamed the recession, pointing out that markets for lobster and shrimp have gone soft. Canadian Inuit have filed cases against the ban in Europe, saying that their livelihoods are endangered by the ban, even though the EU has said it will support indigenous peoples. Canada has filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization. Canada was wooing China in an attempt to open the trade doors a little wider for Canadian seal products, and while the DFO said China was receptive, China is not following through.
Also in the news Wednesday was an Ipsos Reid poll which appeared to show "... broad support among sealers for a federal buyout of the sealing industry -- a solution that would allow Canada to gracefully exit a controversy that has haunted us for five decades. Sealers are clearly feeling the impacts of depressed seal product markets and a boycott of Canadian seafood that will continue until the seal slaughter ends for good." The poll was conducted for the Humane Society International/Canada, and Ipso Reid only polled Newfoundland sealers.
News of the poll outraged some sealers. Industry spokesman Frank Pinhorn vigorously disputed the findings, casting doubt on the validity of the poll results, saying "There's 11,000 licensed sealers in Newfoundland and Labrador and I don't know where they got the sealers. I don't think their base for doing this survey is representative in any meaningful percentage." PInhorn is the Executive Director of the Canadian Sealers Association, based out of Newfoundland.
The Humane Society International/Canada is presently in Newfoundland to observe this year's hunt. They have issued a brief documentary on finding dead Harp seal pups Wednesday, claiming allowing the hunt to proceed when the pups are dying because of the lack of ice is not wise. Humane Society International said the seal pups are victims of global warming.
Other anti-hunting groups are reporting finding thousands of dead baby seals on beaches. One group claims that the last time there was not enough ice for the seals during the birthing season was in 2007, and they also warned that if there are further seasons without ice, the seal population will be in danger of die-back.
The winter of 2009-2010 was the warmest and driest on record for Canada.
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