OTTAWA, Canada -- Canada's Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) has once again decided to ignore scientific advice, and the wishes of the majority of Canadians, by increasing the total allowable catch (TAC) for harp seals.
"Quite frankly, I'm stunned." Said Sheryl Fink, a senior researcher with the International Fund for Animal Welfare - IFAW. "There is absolutely no way this increase in quota can possibly be justified. The science doesn't support it, the markets can't support it, and the Canadian public won't support it."
Scientists from the DFO have acknowledged that the harp seal population is in decline, and have warned that a significant reduction in the Total Allowable Catch will be necessary in order to reach the Canadian government's management objectives.
"If nothing else, today's announcement will solidify the recent international criticism of Canada as a country with a 'manifest disregard for science'" said Fink
In the last year, an international groundswell of public opposition to this hunt has brought about national bans on seal products in Belgium and The Netherlands. Similar bans designed to close down markets for seal pelts are currently under consideration in Germany, Italy and Austria.
"These import bans on seal products have absolutely been based on the facts: the fact that this is an inhumane and unsustainable slaughter of three-week old seal pups for their fur. And the fact is, most Europeans don't feel too good about providing markets for baby seal fur."
Amid the European trade ban discussions of the last year, the international demand for seal fur has diminished considerably and pelt prices have dropped by almost half. Earlier this year, Canadian sealing industry representatives were quoted as saying the industry was in "crisis".
"All recent evidence indicates that the market for seal fur is saturated. There is no place for pelts to go, even at reduced prices," said Fink. "It looks like the Canadian government is insistent on propping up this economically unviable hunt with taxpayer dollars," added Fink.
"It's a national embarassment" continued Fink. "International opposition to Canada's commercial seal hunt is growing day by day. And the response from Loyola Hearn is 'Hey - we're not wussies, and to prove it we're going to smash in the heads of even more baby seals'. Now that might play well to his constituents, but when you sit back and look at it, is he really doing Canada any favours? Is killing baby seals really what Canadians want to be known for? And is this what I want my taxes to support?"
"Actually, this is exactly the sort of politically-motivated move we'd expect from this government in an election year" said Fink. "It has become quite clear that Canada's commercial seal hunt sustains nothing but the political futures of a few decision-makers in Canada."
Canada's commercial seal hunt continues to be the world's largest hunt for marine mammals. Last year over 224,000 seals were killed, 98% of which were pups under three months of age.
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