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article imageSeal hunt opens amid protests and poor ice conditions

By Betty Kowall     Apr 11, 2010 in Environment
The annual Canadian seal hunt has started amidst protests, poor ice conditions and ongoing hostility from the European Union. This year the season opened on Thursday, April 8
According to Nelson Kalil, manager of communications at the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) about 30-40 boats are expected to head to Newfoundland and Labrador's northern tip to participate in this season's seal hunt, the world's largest.
However, a host of reasons make it highly unlikely that this years hunt will be productive despite the growing seal population and increased quotas. "The department has increased this year's seal hunt quota by 50,000 animals to a total of 330,000 because hunting restrictions have resulted in a rising seal herd population, estimated at 6.9 million — more than triple what it was in the 1970s."
Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association, said sealers will take only a fraction of the quota, "We expect 20-25 percent of the quota will be harvested so they'll probably bring in 50,000 to 60,000 out of the 330,000 quota," Only one of the usual four buyers is in the market this year and pelts are expected to sell for only $25 - $35 Canadian compared to a former high of $100.
There is also the added problem that ice conditions are less than ideal this year. According to the DFO, "south of the Strait of Belle Isle, between Newfoundland and southern Labrador, there's virtually no ice for seals to have their pups on.... Ice conditions haven't been this poor since DFO started keeping records 40 years ago."
The latest and probably hardest blow to the hunt has been the EU's ban on seal products. The ban — an effort to force Canada to end its annual hunt — was finalized last July and will take effect in August.
Finally, there are the unsettling graphic images and media campaign that opponents of the hunt have been able to generate over the last few years. The video above was shot by International Fund for Animal Welfare and the quote below is from the International Humane Society:
Every time I close my eyes, the blood-slicked carcasses of the dead seals are there. The bloodied bodies of seals hurling through the air, tossed like garbage onto the sealing vessels. The anguished face of a shot seal, screaming in pain.
There is so much blood. It saturates the ice, slicks across the water, covers the decks of the boats and the sealers. There is death in all directions.
Anti-sealing campaigns, depressed prices, poor ice conditions and the EU ban all mitigate against a productive and profitable Canadian seal hunt this year.
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