The HSI ProtectSeals team is witnessing an ecological disaster for seals off Canada's east coast: so many baby seals will die this year before hunters even reach them. Mother harp seals need ice floes to give birth to and nurse their babies, but climate change has prevented much of the sea ice from forming this year. Environment Canada confirms 2010 has seen the lowest sea ice formation off Canada's east coast on record, and we are expecting mass seal pup mortalities as a result.
Ignoring this tragedy, Canadian Fisheries Minister Gail Shea says she will actually allow commercial sealers to slaughter what surviving pups they can find. If the hunt goes on, sealers will club and shoot seal pups on the tiny pans of ice they are clinging to. We need to act quickly.
Please implore Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, to cancel this year's commercial seal hunt.
- Stephen Harper
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Seals expected to drown in iceless waters
Most of the seal pups born in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence this year will drown due to a lack of ice, a government scientists says.
'It's not a very big impact at all.' — DFO biologist Mike HamillBut biologist Mike Hammill of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans told CBC News Thursday there is no cause for concern yet.
Hamill spent a few days earlier this week flying over the Gulf of St. Lawrence, seeing how much ice and how many seals are left. He estimates 70 per cent of seal pups won't make it. Seals need ice for birthing and nursing, but there is so little ice this year Hamill said that won't be possible for many seals.
But Hamill said the impact of one year of bad ice is minimal.
"We predicted the population in 2009 was 6.9 million and after this year probably the population for 2011 will be 6.7 million," he said.
"So really it's not a very big impact at all."
The lack of ice has made sealing virtually impossible in the southern gulf, but DFO has decided the herd can still sustain a hunt off Newfoundland this year.
Protesters have quiet year
The unusual ice conditions have animal rights groups changing their approach as well. The arrival of seal hunt protesters and the media that follow them is a sign of spring on Prince Edward Island, but this year has been quiet.
Sheryl Fink of the International Fund for Animal Welfare said fewer members of her group came to P.E.I. this year and they're leaving Friday, heading north to Newfoundland. "Hopefully it will be a less competitive hunt," she said.
"Hopefully any seals that are being killed, the hunters will be able to take the time to follow the regulations and take the steps that are required to make sure the seals are unconscious before they're being skinned."
Hammill said DFO will continue to monitor the number of seals in Atlantic Canada. The seal hunt quota could be reduced in the future if warmer weather continues, and officials think the lack of ice is taking too much of a toll on the herd.