March 26, 2009

Annual Canadian Seal Hunt Reports Nearly 20,000 Kills So Far

Fisheries officials said on Thursday that hunters taking part in Canada's controversial yearly seal hunt have already filled their full kill-quota after slaughtering some 19,411 seals so far this year, the AFP reported.

Phil Jenkins, a spokesman for Canada's fisheries and oceans department, described the first leg of the annual commercial cull, which ended Wednesday, as "calm and orderly."

The annual seal kill boasted some 350 Canadian sealers in 20 vessels, as well as those on the shores of the Magdalen Islands.

Jenkins said a small hunt of 1,500 animals around Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, would take place on Friday if weather conditions allow.

Should it be postponed, the commercial hunt would resume off the west coast of Canada's island Newfoundland province and near Quebec's lower northshore next month, where some 63,000 seals inhabit the region.

After that, the main hunt will kick off on the northeast coast of Newfoundland, where some 188,600 seals will likely be slaughtered, he added.

The world's largest commercial seal hunt takes place ever year in Canada. The coasts of Greenland, Norway, the United States, Namibia, Britain, Finland and Sweden are also areas that allow commercial hunting of Harp seals.

Animal rights groups have strongly spoken against the Canadian hunt, where seals are sought after for their pelts, meat and fat, which is used in beauty products.

However, the 350-year-old hunt is crucial for some 6,000 North Atlantic fishermen who rely on the seal hunt for up to 35 percent of their total annual income, according to the Canadian government.

The European parliament will vote on a proposed prohibition on seal products in April that would ban products derived from seals from being imported, exported or even transported across the 27-member bloc.

The EU governments still have to approve the measure before it can be implemented.

Meanwhile, the city of Ottawa maintains it will contest any curbs on the international trade of seal products.