Seals on Thin Ice: Canada’s Slaughter Must Stop

By on January 5, 2012 with 0 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

For years, The Humane Society of the United States has been at the forefront of a global movement to end Canada's commercial seal slaughter.

A new study featured in the New York Times’ environment blog today highlights the devastating impacts of climate change on harp seals and provides yet another compelling reason for the Canadian government to take action to end the hunt.

Harp seal pup
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

Harp seals rely on sea ice to give birth and nurse their pups. But their habitat is literally melting away, with a steady decline in ice cover over the past three decades. The situation is urgent—in recent years, entire generations of seal pups have been lost when the ice didn’t form or melted too soon.

Our Protect Seals team travels to the harp seal nursery every year and has witnessed firsthand the devastating impacts of the vanishing ice. The reports are heartbreaking—the few surviving pups helplessly clinging to tiny, broken ice floes, only to be beaten and shot to death in the largest slaughter of marine mammals on earth.

Our work to close seal product markets is helping to stop this suffering. The European Union, the United States, Mexico, and Croatia have all banned trade in seal products, and in 2011, the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, and Belarus stopped their trade in harp seal fur. Prices for seal skins have dropped dramatically in Canada, and the number of fishermen participating in the hunt has declined from a few thousand to a few hundred.

The HSUS has long argued that the Canadian government should “buy out” the sealing industry—the slaughter would end, fishermen would be compensated for any lost income, and funds would be invested in economic alternatives. Polling shows the overwhelming majority of Canadians support the idea, and there is now broad support for the concept among sealers.

With Environment Canada predicting that virtually no sea ice will remain in the harp seal nursery by the time the hunt is scheduled this spring, Canadian sealers, along with their government, should work with us now to achieve this solution. If the industry waits, the prices for seal fur will continue to decline along with the sea ice, and sealing licenses will be worth nothing more than the paper they are printed on.

Humane Society International

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