The Canadian Seal ‘Hunt’ 2011 and the Namibian Cape fur seal slaughter 2011

Seal cull starts late

THE harvesting of 91 000 seals started yesterday in defiance of international pressure from animal rights and welfare groups to stop the annual culling.

The official period for the harvest is from July 1 to November 15, but according to the director of policy, planning and economics at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Anna Erastus, “it is up to the rights holders to decide when to start as long as the days fall within the harvesting period permitted by the Government”.

One of the concession holders, who harvests at Cape Cross Seal Reserve, Gys Cillers, yesterday confirmed to The Namibian that harvesting did start yesterday.

As for the alleged ‘ban’ on media coverage of the event – which is being reported in the news and on the Internet – Erastus said that the ministry was “not aware of any media ban on matters relating to the Namibian seal harvest”.

“To witness the seal harvesting, one is expected to make a formal request through the office of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry. The request to attend the seal harvesting should clearly stipulate the purpose of intending to be an observer and how the information obtain from the harvesting will be utilised,” she said.

The Namibian understands that the ministry has received numerous applications – even internationally – which were turned down. The Namibian itself requested permission from the ministry to be present at previous culls, which was also unsuccessful.

When Cilliers’s opinion was asked why the media are not allowed, he said: “The ministry will never allow it. There’s a saying that the camera never lies, but until now, we have never received truthful reporting.

“There’s been unbelievable negative publicity in the past from all over, and it’s all lies,” said Cilliers.

He said he was not in a position to allow a reporter to cover a day of the harvest, and that all requests have to be directed to the ministry.

Namibia: More Seals to Die Next Year

FISHERIES and Marine Resources Minister Bernhard Esau yesterday said he would increase seal culling quotas next year in an attempt to create jobs.

For the past three years, 91 000 seals a year – 85 000 pups and 6 000 bulls – have been culled by three concession holders.

The annual seal harvest is between July 1 and November 15.

“We will continue harvesting seals and giving new rights. I’m going to issue new rights to people who’ve applied to harvest seals, and with that the quota of seals will also increase to create more direct jobs for the seal industry and indirectly for the fishing industry,” Esau told The Namibian during an official visit to the coast.

He would not say by how much he would increase the concession holders and the quota.

Esau maintained that Namibia would continue managing its resources by balancing the number of seals to ensure the wellbeing of Namibia’s fish stocks.

“Fish are definitely threatened by seals, especially since fisheries is one of the major contributing sectors to the GDP. A lot of work is also created by the fishing industry, directly and indirectly. If people want us to stop [culling seals], let them create jobs for the 12 000 people in the industry,” he said.

Earlier this week, Ombudsman John Walters made it clear that he would investigate allegations that the harvest was illegal on his own terms without being prescribed to by anyone how he should do his job.

A South African animal rights activist, Francois Hugo of Seal Alert, sent a legal opinion describing Namibia’s seal harvest as illegal to Walters as well as Esau.

“That thing does not hold water. We got an opinion from our lawyers, which is contra the opinion of Seal Alert’s lawyers. Their opinion was just a kind of bluff in an attempt to stop our annual harvest. We out-rule it based on the opinion of our lawyers,” said Esau.

Desperate journalists hide cameras in bid to film annual Namibia seal hunt

Namibia has cordoned off areas where the controversial annual seal harvesting is taking place, with police warning anyone found in the vicinity without valid cause that they will be “dealt with”.

This follows the confiscation of high technology cameras clandestinely and imaginatively dressed as rocks endemic to the Cape Cross area where the largest seal harvest takes place annually.

The expensive equipment is suspected to have been placed by foreign journalists and animal welfare organisations representatives who are said to be in the country on tourist visas in order to film the seal culling process – described by many international animal rights groups as inhumane. (Read: Namibia defends seal culling method)

What look like ordinary pieces of rock to the untrained eye turned out to be high definition cameras with optical zooming abilities, large hard drives for mass storage of footages, a car battery for power and a wireless router which would make it easier for the user to re-direct images and footages to another device without having to be on site.

Namibian police suspect that the owners are booked in lodges and guest houses at the tourist hotspot Mile 72 – some 20 kilometres away – from where they can trek on foot as tourists to carry out their mission.

Namibian police inspector general Sebastian Ndeitunga told the Africa Review that although no arrests have been made, the police have intensified security and surveillance in the area around Cape Cross and will not hesitate to arrest and detain anyone whom they suspect are attempting to film the culling. (Read: Uproar over Namibia seal culling)

“Anyone caught in this area under suspicious circumstances will be considered a trespasser, and will have to suffer the consequences,” Mr Ndeitunga said.

State refusal

The Namibian government has consistently refused to divulge any information on the seal hunt, and consequently banned the filming, or capturing of images during the harvesting.

Mr Frans Tsheehama, the permanent secretary in the ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, was quoted in a Namibian newspaper as saying: “Under no circumstances will film activities take place during the harvesting of seals.

“If the government decides for the coverage by the media, such a project will be awarded to state media institutions of which terms and conditions will be drafted and agreed upon in writing”.

This statement followed the arrest and deportation of two journalists in 2009 who clandestinely taped the seal hunt.

On the few occasions the government agreed to talk to the press, they claimed seals were consuming 900, 000 tonnes of fish a year, more than a third of the fishing industry’s catch. With the seal hunt, they say they are protecting the country’s all important fishing industry.

Police continue to patrol the Cape Cross area, until the harvests ends in mid-November.

The Namibian seal hunt, held every year from July to November, is the world’s second largest commercial seal hunt and the only one in the southern hemisphere.

This year’s harvest quotas are set at 85,000 seal pups and 6,000 bulls.

 

Give us options on seal culling, Namibia tells lobbyists

In Summary

Culling season starts July 8, targeted at preserving fish that are preyed on by the seals

Namibian economy heavily dependent on fishing activities

Namibia has defended its controversial seal culling methods, which result in the clubbing to death of over 50,000 seal pups annually, as a new seal harvesting season looms.

The country’s minister for fisheries and marine resources, Mr Ben Esau, told local reporters at a media conference on Wednesday that the culling methods employed by Namibia conform to ‘internationally acceptable’ standards, amongst them those set by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

The methods, said Mr Esau, involve the shooting of seal bulls while seal pups are clubbed to death — a method that has attracted the attention of international animal welfare organisations and lobbyists, who have labelled it as “inhumane”.

The minister shot down such claims saying such organisation were merely attempting to opportunistically use the exercise to distort information and “…present false accounts of events and facts of the Republic of Namibia’s seal harvesting process.”

Depletion claim

“We have asked for public opinion on several occasions on a more humane way of culling, however, up to date, no animal rights organisation could come up with an alternative method. It is therefore my sincere believe that Namibia has the most ethical laws of culling seals,” said the minister.

Namibia, among others, harvests the seals to produce oil, claimed to be rich in fatty acids which is medically used to enhance the brain, eyes, heart and the cardiovascular system.

The country, which heavily depends on fishing as one of the largest contributor to its GDP, claims that the ever increasing presence of seal colonies is depleting its fish stocks.

Government statistics estimates the number of seals in Namibia to be 700,000, some 90,000 of which are culled annually to allow the maturing of mainly hake fish species on which the seals largely feed on.

Control matters

“We are not against the presence of seals in our waters, we just want to control matters so that we are not caught offguard. It is for this reason that we do not touch seal cows – we allow them to mate with the remaining bulls and breed,” said Mr Esau

Namibia’s current culling season starts on July 8, 2010 and ends on November 15, 2010. The Total Allowable Catch (TAC) as approved by the line ministry is 80,000 for pups, and 6,000 for bulls.

The harvesting will be carried out in three main seal colonies along the Namibian coast; Cape Cross, Wolf Bay and Atlas Bay.

The ministry says the harvesting will be done in the presence of fisheries inspectors and extended an open invitation to animal welfare organisation and the local media willing to observe the activities.

Uproar over Namibia seal culling

Namibia will not renege on its set annual seal culling quota despite protests from pressure groups and animal rights organisations to halt the process.

Anti-sealing groups have reportedly petitioned the International Rugby Board, the Welsh Rugby Union, the South African Rugby and Football Union and the Fiji Rugby Union to oppose Namibia’s national rugby team from playing in the rugby World Cup in New Zealand in September.

It has also come to light that anti-seal culling groups Fur Free SA, Sea Shepherd SA and Beauty Without Cruelty are scheduling protests on June 17 at all Namibian embassies around the world against the annual seal cull.

However, the media liaison officer at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Albert Mbanga, told reporters that there will be no cancellation of the annual seal cull which is due to start on July 1.

This year’s harvest season is expected to result in the culling of 85,000 seal pups and 6 ,000 bulls which is the quota given to the concession holders.

The country’s annual harvesting of endangered Cape Fur Seals, classified as Appendix 2 animals on the CITES list, continues to attract wide condemnation from animal rights groups.

Depleted fish stocks

Seal bulls are shot, while seal pups are clubbed to death – a method that has attracted the attention of international animal welfare organisations and lobbyists who have labelled it ‘inhumane’.

The country, which heavily depends on its fishing sector as one of the largest contributors to its GDP, says the ever increasing presence of seal colonies is depleting its fish stocks.

Government statistics estimate the number of seals in Namibia to be 700,000, of which 90,000 are culled annually to allow the maturing of mainly hake fish species on which the seals largely feed on.

Namibia claims that it had requested organisations opposed to seal culling to suggest alternative ways of dealing with the phenomenon, but such organisations are yet to do so. As such, it reasoned, no other ‘ethical alternative’ to culling of seals.

Namibia, among others, harvests the seals to produce oil, said to be rich in fatty acids which is medically used to enhance the brain, eyes, heart and the cardiovascular system.

Sealers staying home or fishing other species: fisherman

CORNER BROOK — It may not have looked like it this year, or even last, but there are still many sealers in this province willing to hunt if the price is right.

Mark Small, a sealer from the White Bay area, did not participate in the seal hunt for the second consecutive year. He said his effort would not have been profitable this year, and last season he — like so many — did not have a buyer to sell to.

The veteran sealer said there were many factors against the hunt this year, in which less than 10 per cent of the allowable quota was killed. Small said about 37,000 seals have been harvested of the 400,000 quota, and he is unaware of any boats commercially participating now.

“The catch was down and there wasn’t many active sealers that took part in the seal hunt this year,” he said from his home in Wild Cove. “The prices were low, weather conditions were very poor, and we had crab season open earlier than the seal season.”

The sealer said markets increased this year, but they were only offered $21 for a top-quality pelt. The month of April was cold and windy, deterring sealers from participating. The lack of ice in the front — off southern Labrador — would have forced sealers to travel farther north in search of whelping ice, making it less likely for the fishermen to turn a profit.

The early start of the crab fishery, directed many regular sealers to that fishery, where Small said there are greater profits.

Small said estimates of the seal population are now 9-10 million, which he says is detrimental to fish stocks. In order to rebuild those stocks, he said the seal population must be minimized.

There has already been some unexplainable phenomena.

“I don’t understand what has happened this year, but a number of adult seals have washed ashore along the coast and died,” he said. “We haven’t been able to find that out scientifically.

“This year, the seals must have been late giving birth because we had ragged-jackets right up until the end of April. I don’t understand what is happening, but the environment could be having some effects on the pupping and mating early in the year when there is no ice.”

While the lack of ice drives the seals farther north, Small said sealers are willing to chase them down, if the hunt is viable.

He hopes there is a rebound to the hunt, rather than further discussion of a seal cull.

“I think it is an industry that many people along the coastlines of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Magdalen Islands can benefit from,” he said. “With (markets in) China, that looks very hopeful for full utilization of the animal. If we could build that market, it would certainly be good for the industry in the future.”

Regardless, he said the various levels of government will have to examine the seal population and its impact on fish stocks.

Seal hunt thwarted by lack of ice
Only 1 per cent of southern Gulf of St. Lawrence quota caught

 

A lack of ice in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence prevented a significant seal hunt this year, say Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials.

In the past week, only four boats — from the Îles-de-la-Madeleine — have gone out for the hunt, Alain Belle-Isle, communications manager for the department, told CBC News on Monday.

“There was a total of just a little over 1,200 seals taken to date,” Belle-Isle said. “But activity in the gulf is winding down now with the disappearance of the ice and with it the seal populations.

“As we understand it, as of Monday morning, there is one vessel that is still active but we expect that the activity is going to wind down over the next few days.”

Belle-Isle said the total allowable catch for the southern gulf this year was set at 105,000 animals. The lack of ice made for an unusual year for the hunt, he said.

 

Weather making seal hunt difficult: DFO

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says high winds and a lack of ice are making the annual harp seal hunt difficult so far.

“With the storms that have blown through over the last few days and the high winds, a lot of the ice is dispersing quite rapidly,” said Alain Belle-Isle, a spokesman for the department.

“The seals are moving around quite a bit.”

The hunt began Sunday at 6 a.m. for all sealers from the Gulf, Maritimes and the Magdalen Islands, but the department said only one boat from the Magdalen Islands reported plans to take part in the hunt on Monday.

Belle-Isle said four observer permits have been issued so far and the department does not want a large number of observers overwhelming a small number of sealers.

“We do try to treat every request and try to accommodate everyone but given the low level of sealing activity there may be a need to restrict the number of observers that can be allowed out at one time,” he said.

There will be three buffer zones around the coast of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island during the harp seal hunt, with most of the activity likely taking place between North Cape, P.E.I. and Miscou Island, N.B.

The Northwest Atlantic harp seal population is estimated at nine million animals, more than four times what it was in the 1970s. In 2010, 67,327 harp seals were harvested.

‘Some will (hunt), no matter the price, because it’s in their blood’ 
Once bustling Newfoundland town awaits a now-meagre seal hunt to begin

There, in the back of Jack Troake’s Newfoundland fishing shack, history waits to repeat itself.

Crab pots set apart. Shrimp gear as well.

Then, elsewhere, the tools of the sealing trade – including the now well-known hakapiks.

“Sir, we’ve used the same list for the past 37 years,” explains Troake, at 74 years old, arguably the patriarch of the annual seal hunt on the northeast shore.

He was nine years old when he hunted his first seal.

It was all he could do to drag it across the ice. He was greeted by his grandfather, who saw the killing as a march toward manhood and a cultural necessity.

“He was some proud,” Troake recalls from his home in the town of Twillingate, once a busy gateway into the sealing grounds.

These would be the days, less than a decade ago, when the dock would have busted with 80 boats preparing for the hunt.

Today, half the fleet is still in dry-dock – making a trip by the water a walk through a graveyard.

While the opening date of the season hasn’t been declared, it’s usually in the early April. So this should be the staging time for the armada.

By now, crews should be filling grocery carts – sometimes three buggies at a go – inside local markets.

Freezers would normally have been packed with moose, rabbits and herring, and pantries stocked with enough tea to float Britain.

Bakeries once were busy preparing pies and cookies for a week-long hunt that, if gripped by ice, could last a month.

In the past, you’d be hard pressed to find a parking spot near the wharf.

But today, after a long fight with environmentalists, foreign markets, including the 27 European Union states that adopted a ban in 2009, federal regulators, and even a former Beatle who came knocking them in 2006, the once-mighty sealing fleet has been reduced to a small convoy.

There are at least seven million harp seals off the East Coast – more than triple what there were in the 1970s.

And Atlantic sealers will come nowhere close to bringing in a yet-to-be determined quota, that’s usually around 300,000.

But while their number of hunters is down drastically, Troake and his town are diehard and admirably defiant.

“Some will (hunt), no matter the price, because it’s in their blood,” explains Gord Noseworthy, the local mayor and harbourmaster. “It’s a crime,” he says of the change from the way things were.

There is some good news in Twillingate. Tourism is growing, as outsiders come to see the icebergs pass by.

And Chinese investors are building a nearby plant to process about 25 tonnes of shrimp shells into protein and fertilizer every year.

It’ll employ 21 people, which Noseworthy points out, “Is as welcomed as 21,000 new jobs in Ontario.”

But there remains – especially at this time of year – a bitterness that’s as thick and lingering as the ice on the bay.

“I’ve said, when I die, I won’t die a Canadian, I’ll die a Newfoundlander,” laments Troake.

The assault on what he holds dear hasn’t been easy.

He’s now braced for the type of phone calls from anti-sealers on the mainland he’s got in the past.

They threaten to burn his place down and “beat his brains in.”

As his equipment remains in the shed, Troake waits to see which way the ocean winds will actually blow – and what the season’s numbers will look like – before deciding if he’ll set off again.

In better days, the tools would be out by now.

But, says the sealer, it won’t take long to stock his boat, The Lone Fisher.

Knowing everything is in its place, waiting for its time, the aging sealer promises: “Sir, in 24 hours, we’d be ready again.”

Canada increases seal hunt quota

OTTAWA — The Canadian government on Friday announced an increase in the number of seals to be killed in a controversial commercial hunt off its Atlantic coast.

The quota was hiked 20 percent from last year’s 388,200 seals to a total of 468,200, including 400,000 harp seals and 60,000 grey seals. The hooded seals quota stayed at 8,200.

Canada’s 6,000 sealers once made an average of 10 million dollars from the annual hunt, with a quarter of it from exports to Europe, according to the Canadian government.

But a lack of sea ice in one of the warmest Canadian winters on record and a European ban on seal products, according to Ottawa, ruined what was to be a banner seal hunt last year.

Most sealers stayed home, unable to find buyers for their catch or stymied by a lack of ice floes for the first time in 60 years on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, which usually hosts hordes of seals birthing pups.

In January, Fisheries Minister Gail Shea announced a deal with China to allow imports of Canadian seal meat and oils, and said she was hopeful access to this new market would restore Canada’s sealing industry.

Meanwhile, Ottawa continues to contest the EU ban on imports of seal products imposed after a public outcry over the annual commercial seal hunt, which animal rights activists denounce as cruel.

The Humane Society and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) both called the increased quota “irresponsible,” saying the market for pelts and seal meat was soft and a lack of sea ice again this year would lead to the birth of fewer pups.

They accused the government, which was toppled in a no-confidence vote earlier in the day, of using the seal quota to ply east coast voters in the coming election.

 

Cape Breton sealers harvest product on Henry, Saddle islands

SYDNEY — A group of Cape Breton sealers harvested 115 grey seals last month on Henry Island and Saddle Island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence.

The sealers were joined on Henry Island by anti-hunt activists in the Humane Society International/Canada but were not under the media spotlight of an earlier hunt on Hay Island, where newspaper, radio and television journalists also went along.

The federal Fisheries and Oceans Department says a total of 105 seals were harvested on Henry Island on Feb. 25 and 10 were taken on Saddle Island on Feb. 28.

Henry Island is off the southwest coast of Cape Breton while Saddle Island is north of Malagash Point off the coast of Cumberland County, N.S.

Robert Courtney, president of the North of Smokey Fishermen’s Association, said the hunts were less about making money and more about furthering a marketing campaign. The buyer, Northeast Coast Sealers Cooperative of Newfoundland, is out to find buyers for grey seal meat and other products mostly in Asian markets.

“It’s all about marketing,” he said Wednesday.

He said sealers may also continue to hunt adult grey seals this year.

Fisheries and Oceans has also given the North of Smokey Fishermen’s Association an allocation of 5,000 harp seals a year in each year from 2011 to 2015.

The fishermen’s association is hoping to entice a processor to Cape Breton who could handle both harp and grey seal products.

During a grey seal hunt on Hay Island, Feb. 24, the sealers harvested about 80 animals out of an allowable allocation of 1,900.

Courtney said Wednesday they are keeping an eye open for favourable ice conditions and the presence of harp seals.

Rebecca Aldworth, of the Humane Society of North America/Canada, said the hunt on Henry Island was almost over and sealers were mostly gathering up carcasses by the time they arrived on Henry Island.

Aldworth said the anti-seal hunt activists would want to document a harp seal hunt if it does happen.

Seal hunt small-calibre bullets successful
90 per cent of seals killed with one shot

Small-calibre bullets worked quite well when used last week during the grey seal hunt on Hay Island, off the eastern coast of Cape Breton, says a researcher.

But Dr. Pierre-Yves Daoust, a wildlife pathologist at UPEI, said Monday that although 90 per cent of the seals died instantly from a single bullet, hunters should be able to do better.

“That compares very well with other forms of hunting, whether they be for sport hunting, whether they be for subsistence hunting,” he said Monday.

“In the context of a commercial hunt, especially when you can shoot the animal from a very short distance, I think we can and should be able to do better than that.”

Daoust, who is studying a potential replacement for the hakapic in the seal hunt, is now recommending that a more destructive bullet be used.

Also, he said the hunters need to wait longer before firing in order to be sure the seal does not move. That would minimize the animal’s suffering.

“My interpretation of this is that I am reasonably satisfied with the results of this trial, but it remains a first trial and I am confident that this proportion of 10 per cent can be reduced even further based on the observations that we made during that field trial,” Daoust said.

A representative of the Humane Society said last week that the experiment was not working.

“We saw seals that were thrashing around after being shot that had to again be clubbed to finish them off. It’s been a very difficult thing to watch,” said Rebecca Aldworth.

Hakapics are used in the Hay Island hunt because there is a risk bullets could ricochet off the rocks.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has set a quota for the island of 1,900 animals, down from 2,200 last year.

Hunters said they have secured two Newfoundland-based buyers for the meat. The hunt did not take place last year because sealers said they could not find any markets.

Grey seal hunt opens off Cape Breton

HAY ISLAND — One of the world’s most controversial hunts got off to a start on Thursday as a contingent of sealers and anti-sealing activists set sail for a barren island off the coast of Cape Breton.

A fewer-than-expected number of grey seals could be seen spread out across the sloping rocks of the protected wilderness area, known as Hay Island, as hunters did their best to kill the mammals while avoiding the prying eyes of observers.

Hay Island stretches roughly a kilometre in length, with both sides of its coastline viewable from the island’s highest peak.

A handful of reporters from the Cape Breton Post and CBC travelled on a nine-mile boat ride, followed closely behind by members of the Humane Society International/Canada and the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition in a large zodiac.

In total, 20 hunters — all men — were given licences to hunt grey seals on Hay Island this year. The hunters readied their boats at the crack of dawn and by 8:30 a.m. the hunt had begun.

Rifles and hakapiks were used to kill the animals. After killing a seal, hunters felt the seal’s skull, they then bled the seals and dragged their carcasses across the ice to the shore, with thick and visible streaks of blood left behind.

Mother seals and the younger white-pelted seals, whose pelts had yet to moult, were close by as the pups were killed. One seal whose coat was only half-white was seen lying in the snow, surrounded on all sides by the blood of other seals.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada set a quota of 1,900 grey seals for 2011 on Hay Island, down from 2,200 last year. The seals are part an overall quota of 60,000 for the herd throughout Atlantic Canada, an increase of 10,000 over last year.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says the total population has increased from fewer than 30,000 animals in the early 1970s to around 250,000 animals in 2004.

Before allowing the hunt, fisheries created an advisory group, including university scientists and fishing industry representatives, which studied the seal population and found that while herds have recovered — despite centuries of seal hunting — stocks of cod and other groundfish fell to their lowest, and still show no signs of recovery.

DFO says the commercial seal quota is based on sound conservation principles.

The seals were not skinned on the island, but instead the bodies were tied to a rope line and pulley and moved to one of two waiting fishing boats.

Two veterinarians, three DFO officers, two RCMP and one representative of the Department of Natural Resources monitored the hunt, along with a government aerial surveillance plane.

As well, four anti-sealing activists and four members of local media, along with an international journalist were permitted to observe the hunt this year.

 Grey seal hunt opens off Cape Breton

 

HAY ISLAND — One of the world’s most controversial hunts began Thursday, bringing sealers and anti-sealing activists together on a small, barren island off Cape Breton.

Fewer grey seals than expected were spread out across the sloping rocks of Hay Island as hunters killed the mammals under the watchful eye of observers.

Hay Island, which is nearest to Scatarie Island off Main-a-Dieu, stretches roughly a kilometre in length with both sides of its rocky coastline viewable from the island’s highest peak.

A handful of reporters from the Cape Breton Post and CBC travelled on a 14-kilometre boat ride, followed closely behind by members of the Humane Society International/Canada and the Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition in a large Zodiac.

In total, 20 hunters — all men — were given licences to hunt grey seals on Hay Island this year. The hunters readied their boats at the crack of dawn and by 8:30 a.m. the hunt had begun.

Observers were permitted to come within 10 metres of the hunt. Rifles and hakapiks were used to kill the animals. After killing a seal, hunters felt the seal’s skull, then bled the seals and dragged their carcasses across the ice to the shore, with thick streaks of blood left behind.

Mother seals and the younger white-pelted seals were close by as the moulted pups were killed. One seal whose coat was only half-white was seen lying in the snow, surrounded on all sides by the blood of other seals.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans set a quota of 1,900 grey seals for 2011 on Hay Island, down from 2,200 last year. The seals are part an overall quota of 60,000 for the herd throughout Atlantic Canada, an increase of 10,000 over last year.

DFO says the total population has increased from fewer than 30,000 animals in the early 1970s to around 250,000 animals in 2004.

Before allowing the hunt, DFO created an advisory group, including university scientists and fishing industry representatives, which studied the seal population and found that while herds have recovered — despite centuries of seal hunting — stocks of cod and other groundfish fell to their lowest, and still show no signs of recovery. DFO says the commercial seal quota is based on sound conservation principles.

As part of the Hay Island hunt grey seals were not skinned on the island, but instead the bodies were tied to a rope line and pulley and moved to one of two waiting fishing boats. Because Hay Island is a protected area, sealers can’t leave any part of a carcass on the island.

Two veterinarians, three DFO officers, two RCMP and one representative of the Department of Natural Resources monitored the hunt, along with a government aerial surveillance plane.

As well, four anti-sealing activists, four members of local media and an international journalist were permitted to observe the hunt this year.

Rebecca Aldworth of the anti-hunt group the Humane Society International/Canada had a tear fall down her face as she spoke with reporters, calling the hunt the worst she’s seen. She believes just over 100 seals were taken from the island something she believes indicates sealers have found “no market” for the seals. She and her group of anti-sealers documented the hunt as part of their international campaign to stop seal hunting. She argues the seal hunt jeopardizes Cape Breton’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.

“This is supposed to be a nature reserve and it should be protected from commercial hunting,” she said. “But the Nova Scotia government has colluded with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans to allow seal hunters to go onto this nature reserve and slaughter virtually every seal pup they find there.”

Asked about the testing of low-calibre bullets and whether it would make the hunt more humane, Aldworth said nothing about the hunt is humane. She said she witnessed seals having to be shot again, or clubbed following an initial shooting.

“The hunt that occurred today was nothing more than a government-subsidized experiment in trying out new killing methods,” said Aldworth. “It’s an experiment that clearly failed from what I observed today.”

Joan Reid, DFO area chief of conservation and protection, said the hunt was pretty uneventful, with everything proceeding as expected.

“No reports yet,” she said on the testing of low-calibre bullets. “There’s veterinarians out there working in co-operation with seal hunters and they’ll be doing some analysis afterwards. As far as I know, things went smoothly today.”

Reid said the bullets are being tested to see if they can humanely kill seals and reduce the risk of ricochets and danger to sealers.

She said DFO’s responsibility in the hunt is ensuring it proceeds as a viable fishery and viable industry that provides economic benefit to Atlantic Canada and the northern regions. She said seal industry officials are working with the Canadian Food Industry Council to see if there is a potential for using the seals as a meat product.

Robert Courtney, who speaks on behalf of the sealers, said they harvested fewer seals than they expected, adding he didn’t know exactly how many. He has said there is a market for the seals this year, unlike last year when a lack of buyers cancelled the hunt. Overall, he said the hunt was good and he approved of the low-calibre bullets tested.

Courtney said it’s unlikely sealers will go out again before the season ends in March because seals are leaving the island.

See Saturday’s Cape Breton Post for a photo spread on the 2011 grey seal hunt, and check online at http://www.cbpost.com for a photo and video gallery.

Grey seal hunt begins in Hay Island, N.S.
Federal quota of 1,900 animals, down from last year

About 25 sealers arrived on Hay Island, N.S., off the eastern coast of Cape Breton, on Thursday for the start of the grey seal hunt.

Fisheries officers, veterinarians and anti-hunt activists are monitoring the hunt.

Journalists are on the tiny outcrop of rock to observe but are barred from approaching the sealers or getting within ten metres of the hunt.

Seals are reportedly scattered across the island, which is about one kilometre long.

This year, sealers tested small-calibre ammunition that was expected to cause the immediate death of seals and eliminate the risk of ricochet for sealer safety.

A representative of the Humane Society said the experiment is not working.

“We saw seals that were thrashing around after being shot that had to again be clubbed to finish them off. It’s been a very difficult thing to watch,” said Rebecca Aldworth.

But CBC video showed a seal being rendered lifeless after one shot from a hunter’s rifle. Official reports from veterinarians observing the hunt are not yet available.

Hunters say they have secured two Newfoundland-based buyers for the meat. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has set a quota for the island of 1,900 animals, down from 2,200 last year. The hunt did not take place last year because sealers said they could not find any markets.

The Hay Island hunt officially opened last Thursday, but sealers were delayed by bad weather over the weekend.
With files from the Canadian Press.

Fishermen can harvest harp seals

SYDNEY — A fishermen’s association hoping to develop a seal processing industry in Cape Breton has been given an allocation of up to 25,000 harp seals over the next five years.

Fisheries and Oceans Department spokesman Andrew Newbould confirmed Tuesday the department has approved an application from the North of Smokey Fishermen’s Association for a developmental allocation of 5,000 harp seals a year in each year from 2011 to 2015.

Robert Courtney, president of the association, said Tuesday both the harp seal allocation and their success finding buyers for this year’s grey seal hunt on Hay Island off eastern Cape Breton are encouraging signs for their industry.

“The sealing industry in Nova Scotia is alive and doing well,” he said Tuesday.

Courtney hoped the harp seal allocation would help entice a processor to Cape Breton who could also handle grey seal pelts and products.

“That’s what the long-term goal is, to have a processing facility in Cape Breton, hiring Cape Bretoners and the product going out of Cape Breton.”

Last year’s grey seal hunt on Hay Island was cancelled because there were no buyers and the harp seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was also cancelled because of a lack of ice on which to hunt the animals.

Rebecca Aldworth of the anti-hunt group the Humane Society International/Canada, who is in Cape Breton to document what happens on Hay Island, was skeptical about the future of the seal industry, saying it’s pointless to process products no one wants to buy.

“Markets globally are closing for seal products, not expanding,” she said.

Canada’s two largest trading partners, the European Union and U.S., have both banned trade in seal products and other countries are working on bans, she said.

“It is clear, the writing is on the wall that the sealing industry is a dying industry and instead of investing more public money in new processing plants and new ventures in the sealing industry, the Canadian government should be investing in a one-time buyout of the commercial seal industry.”

Aldworth said there is greater potential for a seal-watching tourism industry in places like Hay Island.

“You have one of the most beautiful wildlife spectacles I have ever seen located directly off of your coast and nobody knows about it. The only way we know about it is because Robert Courtney and his crew of sealers want to go out there and beat these seal pups to death with wooden bats.”

Aldworth was also skeptical about the potential for seal markets in China despite an announcement last month that that Canada has signed a trade deal that will allow that country to import seal meat.

Over 40 animal protection groups in China have announced they will campaign for a ban on seal products, she said.

Courtney saw that agreement with China as an encouraging sign for the industry.

“As Nova Scotia, hopefully, we can get in on some of it,” he said.

Courtney said it’s another good sign that buyers for the Hay Island grey seal hunt this year are interested in meat, flippers and some of the body organs as well as pelts.

An industry that uses seal meat could be busy throughout the year and use adult animals, he said.

Courtney said harp seals are found throughout Sydney Bight and the Gulf of St. Lawrence, depending on ice conditions.

He expected the harp seal hunt to start at around the end of March and to be dependent on the location of the animals and prices.

“We can’t travel down to the northern part of Newfoundland or down to Labrador to harvest a $15 to $17 animal but if it is a $50 animal, the situation changes.

“But we do have a quota for five years and hopefully we can utilize that.”

Fishermen’s associations from throughout the region have provided moral and financial support to the North of Smokey Fishermen’s Association, said Courtney.

“We need to keep working together to get better benefits out of this.”

Grey seal hunt off eastern Cape Breton set to begin

HALIFAX—A sealer says the grey seal hunt off eastern Cape Breton should get underway on Thursday.

Robert Courtney of the North of Smokey Fishermen’s Association says 20 licensed sealers intend to give federal fisheries officials their 24-hour notice on Wednesday.

The Hay Island hunt officially opened last Thursday, but Courtney says sealers have been delayed by bad weather and additional training needs.

He says some will be taking part in a research project that will look into using rifles with low-calibre bullets to kill the seals and needed more training.

As things stand, hunters must use clubs because the use of high-powered rifles carries a high risk of ricochet on the island’s rocky terrain.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans has set a quota for the island of 1,900 animals, down from 2,200 last year.

The hunt did not take place last year because sealers said they could not find any markets.

Grey seal hunt yet to begin off Cape Breton

HALIFAX – The grey seal hunt off eastern Cape Breton has yet to begin, even though the official opening was last Thursday.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans spokesman Andrew Newbould says sealers must give 24 hours notice of their intent to hunt on Hay Island.

He says no notice has been given to date.

The department has set a quota for the island of 1,900 animals, down from 2,200 last year.

There was no hunt last year because the sealers couldn’t find markets.

Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society International/Canada says the delay is working in favour of the grey seal pups, which are beginning to leave the island with each passing day as they learn to swim.

Low-calibre bullets to be tested during seal hunt

Dr. Pierre-Ives Daoust, professor of anatomic pathology and wildlife pathology, has been investigating a method of killing grey seals by shooting them with low-calibre bullets.

“The problem with this grey seal hunt is that it tends to occur mainly on land and therefore the marine mammal regulations specify that only high-powered rifles can be used, but that’s in the context of the harp seal hunt where the animals are shot from a distance,” said Daoust.

Daoust explains that on Hay Island, sealers cannot use a high-powered rifle because of the small space between them and the seals, and the high risk of ricochet on the island’s rocky terrain.

As part of his research, Daoust has been in collaborative talks with sealers and biologists about the possibility of using low-calibre ammunition that would eliminate the risk of ricochet and cause immediate death of seals.

Daoust says the differences between hunting harp seals and grey seals hunt are vast, including the location of the hunt and the time of year the hunt takes place. Harps seals are harvested on ice floes in March or early April, while grey seals are harvested at this time of year on firm land.

Grey seals, which are typically larger than harp seals, are also commonly killed with a club. While harp seals are often killed by hakapik or club, a vast majority are being killed at a distance by high-powered rifle.

Daoust said the perceived benefit of using low-calibre bullets to kill grey seals is the bullets fragment on impact and do not leave the head of the animal.

As part of the experiment, two sealers will be given a special licence to use the low-powered ammunition to harvest several dozen animals. Each sealer will be followed by a veterinarian to test the efficiency of the weapon, but the test is only scheduled to occur if Daoust is able to observe the hunt — something that depends on the weather.

Daoust said even if the test findings are positive, it will likely be a long time before Fisheries and Oceans allows this method of killing, as there are several legal hoops to jumps through before this type of ammunition can be allowed.

As part of the hunt regulation, fisheries officials also require sealers conduct a three-step process to ensure the animals do not suffer unnecessarily. The process involves either striking or shooting the animal, palpating both the left and right halves of the skull to ensure it has been crushed. Sealers must then bleed the seal before it’s skinned.

While the grey seal hunt opened on Hay Island last week, a lot of uncertainty surrounds when the hunt will occur. A winter storm that brought heavy, wet snow to the region kept sealers at bay over the weekend and again today, although anti-sealing activists were expected to arrive in Sydney on Sunday.

Both groups are preparing their gear, including clubs and cameras, for the annual hunt, which has a quota set at 1,900 grey seals. Hay Island’s quota is part of a larger overall grey seal quota for Atlantic Canada of 60,000, a 10,000 increase over last year.

Hay Island seal hunt to open

SYDNEY — An annual seal hunt that has become a battleground in the bitter conflict between sealers and anti-hunt activists is about to begin off eastern Cape Breton.

The Hay Island grey seal hunt opens today.

The federal Fisheries Department has set a quota of 1,900 animals, down from 2,200 last year.

Last year’s hunt, though, never took place because the sealers couldn’t find markets.

Sealer Robert Courtney said Wednesday the hunters have a buyer this year for their pelts but likely won’t go out the first day.

The Hay Island quota is part of a larger overall grey seal quota for Atlantic Canada of 60,000 — a 10,000 increase over last year.

“When we are ready to move and the buyer has everything in place, we’ll be going,” Courtney said while declining to identify the buyer.

Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society International/Canada said anti-hunt activists will be on Hay Island as observers. She said the seal hunt jeopardizes Cape Breton’s attractiveness as a tourist destination.

“It’s not in the best interests of anybody living in Cape Breton, (which) relies on international visitors or even national visitors, to allow this slaughter to go on,” she said.

“I have no other way of saying it than on Hay Island, seals are beaten to death with what looks like baseball bats in front of each other.”

Sealers typically use clubs rather than rifles on the island because of concerns about ricochets on the rocky terrain.

The official closing date of the Hay Island hunt is March 15.

 

Source: http://www.harpseals.org/resources/news_and_press/2011/canadian_seal_hunt_2011.php#late

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~ by FSVSF Admin on 13 September, 2011.

2 Responses to “The Canadian Seal ‘Hunt’ 2011 and the Namibian Cape fur seal slaughter 2011”

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