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. 270 000 Seals To Be Hunted In Canada This Year

"A large percentage of the seal pups born in the northwest Atlantic this year are dying as their habitat is destroyed," echoed Rebecca Alderworth, director of Canadian wildlife issues for the US Humane Society. "We cannot allow the survivors of this ecological disaster to be slaughtered to produce fashion items," she said, estimating that more than 260,000 seal pups had perished due to climate change. The government acknowledged the plight of the sea mammals, estimating 50 percent of pups in the southern Gulf did not survive, in its quota calculations.
by Michel Comte
Ottawa (AFP) March 29, 2007
Canada's fisheries minister said Thursday 270,000 harp seals would be killed in its annual commercial hunt, deemed "the largest marine mammal massacre in the world" by animal rights groups.

The harvest is down 65,000 from last year due to "poor ice conditions" in seal breeding grounds in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, Minister Loyola Hearn said in a statement.

Up to 20 percent of the Atlantic herd usually nests on thick ice floes in the southern Gulf region in February or March. But this year authorities and animal rights groups found only slush and ice fragments too small to support a newborn pup.

Ice floes in the northern Gulf and around Newfoundland province where most of the seal hunting occurs remain in "good" condition, the minister said.

"We realize mortality will be higher than normal this year (in the southern Gulf)," a fisheries official said. "The ice continues to deteriorate, but there are seals there."

In the past three years, one million seals have been killed in the commercial hunt in eastern Canada. Demonstrators in Europe and Canada have denounced the "cruelty" of seal hunting.

But Ottawa maintains the hunt poses no threat to the seal population. "This year's quota will not pose any long-term threat to the herd," a fisheries official said.

"These decisions are guided by principles of conservation. I also want to ensure that the people who depend on this resource for their livelihood will benefit from it over the long-term," said Minister Hearn.

Animal rights groups remained leery, out in force this month, stripping naked in front of Canada's parliament in freezing temperatures, dousing themselves in red paint to protest the seal hunt and appealing to the public.

"We're calling on the (government) to take a precautionary approach and stop this year's hunt," said Toni Vernelli of Greenpeace Canada last week.

"Continuation of the commercial seal hunt cannot be reconciled with the long-term conservation of the harp seal -- an ice-dependent species which is already suffering critical habitat loss due to global warming."

"A large percentage of the seal pups born in the northwest Atlantic this year are dying as their habitat is destroyed," echoed Rebecca Alderworth, director of Canadian wildlife issues for the US Humane Society.

"We cannot allow the survivors of this ecological disaster to be slaughtered to produce fashion items," she said, estimating that more than 260,000 seal pups had perished due to climate change.

The government acknowledged the plight of the sea mammals, estimating 50 percent of pups in the southern Gulf did not survive, in its quota calculations.

But Hearn, backed by hunters, fur industry representatives and Inuit leaders, countered that opponents of seal hunting were presenting a "biased" view of a practice that he called "sustainable, economically viable and culturally significant."

The Atlantic seal population has ballooned over the past three decades to almost 5.5 million, he said.

Opening dates for the 2007 seal hunt will be announced in the coming days, the minister said.

The government also said fleets that harvest more seals than allotted will see their individual quota reduced by an equivalent amount next season, noting that hunters killed 10,000 more seals than prescribed in 2006.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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