March 22, 2009

Canada Criticized For Increasing Seal Hunt Quota

The Canadian government came under harsh criticism from environmental groups on Saturday for increasing its annual seal-hunting quota. The groups say Canada's move makes little sense given the expected European ban on all seal products.

On Friday, the Canadian government authorized an increase in seal killing on the Atlantic seaboard to 280,000, one-third the total number of seals killed annually worldwide.  The new quota is 5,000 higher than last year's quota, and 10,000 above the quota set in 2007.  However, it is still 55,000 less than the 2006 quota. 

"This quota flies in the face of the best available science and common sense," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of the Canadian branch of Humane Society International, according to an AFP report.

"The last time Canada allowed this many seals to be killed, the harp seal population was reduced by as much as two thirds within a decade," she said in a statement.

"At a time when the Canadian government should be taking action to preserve harp seals, it instead seems determined to wipe them out."

Canada is home to the largest annual commercial seal hunt anywhere in the world.   Last year, over 40 percent of the seals killed were still alive when they were skinned, according to the European animal rights group Equanimal.
The group is taking the issue to the European Parliament, who will make a final decision next month on whether to enact a ban on all seal products throughout the European Union.

Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher at the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), called the new quota "completely indefensible" and said the seal hunt is part of a "dangerous, dead-end industry."

"It's not supported by markets, it's not supported by the DFO's (Department of Fisheries and Oceans) own management plan, and it's certainly not going to be supported by the majority of Canadians," she said.

"There are no markets for seal products, and with a potential European-wide ban on the horizon, no signs that the economic outlook is going to improve anytime soon."


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