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Seal hunting

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Seal hunting, or sealing, is the personal or commercial hunting of seals. The hunt is currently practiced in five countries: Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, where most of the world's seal hunting takes place, Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

, the Danish
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

 region of Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

 and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. Canada's largest market for seals is Norway (through GC Rieber AS).

The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, frequently referred to as DFO , is the department within the government of Canada that is responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs in support of Canada's economic, ecological and scientific interests in oceans and inland waters...

 (DFO) regulates the seal hunt in Canada. It sets quotas (total allowable catch-TAC), monitors the hunt, studies the seal population, works with the Canadian Sealers' Association to train sealers on new regulations, and promotes sealing through its website and spokespeople.

The DFO set kill quotas of 270,000 seals in 2007, 275,000 in 2008, 280,000 in 2009, and 330,000 in 2010. The actual kills in recent years have been less than the quotas: 82,800 in 2007, 217,800 in 2008, 72,400 in 2009, and 67,000 in 2010. In 2007, Norway claimed that 29,000 harp seals were killed in its seal hunt, and Russia and Greenland claimed that 5,476 and 90,000 seals were killed in 2007, respectively.

Harp seal
Harp Seal
The harp seal or saddleback seal is a species of earless seal native to the northernmost Atlantic Ocean and adjacent parts of the Arctic Ocean. It now belongs to the monotypic genus Pagophilus. Its scientific name, Pagophilus groenlandicus, means "ice-lover from Greenland", and its synonym, Phoca...

 populations in the northwest Atlantic declined to approximately 2 million in the late 1960s as a result of Canada's annual kill rates that averaged over 291,000 from 1952 to 1970. Conservationists demanded reduced rates of killing and stronger regulations to avert the extinction of the harp seals. In response, in 1971, the Canadian government instituted a quota system. The system was competitive, with each boat catching as many seals as it could before the hunt closed, which the Department of Fisheries did when they knew that years quota had been reached. Because it was thought that the competitive element might cause sealers to cut corners, new regulations where introduced that limited the catch to 400 Seals per day, and 2000 per boat total.

A 2007 population survey conducted by the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, frequently referred to as DFO , is the department within the government of Canada that is responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs in support of Canada's economic, ecological and scientific interests in oceans and inland waters...

 (DFO) estimated the current population at 5.5 million (95% CI 3.8 million - 7.1 million).
It is illegal in Canada to hunt newborn harp seals (whitecoats) and young hooded seal
Hooded Seal
The hooded seal is an arctic pinniped found only in the central and western North Atlantic ranging from Svalbard in the east to the Gulf of St...

s (bluebacks). When the seal pups begin to molt their downy white fur at the age of 12–14 days, they are called "ragged-jacket
Ragged-jacket
A ragged-jacket is the name given to a harp or grey seal pup when it is undergoing its first moult, and the intermediate stage between a "whitecoat" and a "beater". The moulting begins when the pup is at an age of about 12–14 days, at which time they cease nursing. At this young age, the pups are...

" and can be commercially hunted. After molting, the seals are called "beaters", named for the way they beat the water with their flippers. The hunt remains highly controversial, attracting significant media coverage and protests each year. Images from past hunts have become icon
Icon
An icon is a religious work of art, most commonly a painting, from Eastern Christianity and in certain Eastern Catholic churches...

ic symbols for conservation, animal welfare
Animal welfare
Animal welfare is the physical and psychological well-being of animals.The term animal welfare can also mean human concern for animal welfare or a position in a debate on animal ethics and animal rights...

, and animal rights
Animal rights
Animal rights, also known as animal liberation, is the idea that the most basic interests of non-human animals should be afforded the same consideration as the similar interests of human beings...

 advocates. In 2009, Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

 banned the hunting of harp seals less than one year old.

History


Seals have been used for their pelts, their fat (seal oil was often used as lamp fuel
Oil lamp
An oil lamp is an object used to produce light continuously for a period of time using an oil-based fuel source. The use of oil lamps began thousands of years ago and is continued to this day....

, lubricant
Lubricant
A lubricant is a substance introduced to reduce friction between moving surfaces. It may also have the function of transporting foreign particles and of distributing heat...

s and cooking oil
Cooking oil
Cooking oil is purified fat of plant origin, which is usually liquid at room temperature ....

, and for processing such materials as leather and jute
Jute
Jute is a long, soft, shiny vegetable fibre that can be spun into coarse, strong threads. It is produced from plants in the genus Corchorus, which has been classified in the family Tiliaceae, or more recently in Malvaceae....

, as a constituent of soap, and as the liquid base for red ochre paint), and for their flesh.

Traditional Inuit hunt



Archeological evidence indicates the Native Americans
Native Americans in the United States
Native Americans in the United States are the indigenous peoples in North America within the boundaries of the present-day continental United States, parts of Alaska, and the island state of Hawaii. They are composed of numerous, distinct tribes, states, and ethnic groups, many of which survive as...

 and First Nations
First Nations
First Nations is a term that collectively refers to various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. There are currently over 630 recognised First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The...

 People in Canada have been hunting seals for at least 4,000 years. Traditionally, when an Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

 boy killed his first seal or caribou
Reindeer
The reindeer , also known as the caribou in North America, is a deer from the Arctic and Subarctic, including both resident and migratory populations. While overall widespread and numerous, some of its subspecies are rare and one has already gone extinct.Reindeer vary considerably in color and size...

, a feast was held. The meat was an important source of fat, protein, vitamin A, vitamin B12 and iron, and the pelts were prized for their warmth. The Inuit diet is rich in fish, whale, and seal.

Traditional Inuit seal hunting accounts for three percent of the total hunt; it is excluded from the European Commission
European Commission
The European Commission is the executive body of the European Union. The body is responsible for proposing legislation, implementing decisions, upholding the Union's treaties and the general day-to-day running of the Union....

's call in 2006 for a ban on the import, export and sale of all harp and hooded seal products. Ringed seal
Ringed Seal
The ringed seal , also known as the jar seal and as netsik or nattiq by the Inuit, is an earless seal inhabiting the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions...

s were once the main staple for food, and have been used for clothing, boots, fuel for lamps, a delicacy, containers, igloo
Igloo
An igloo or snowhouse is a type of shelter built of snow, originally built by the Inuit....

 windows, and furnished harnesses for huskies. Though no longer used to this extent, ringed seals are still an important food source for the people of Nunavut
Nunavut
Nunavut is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993...

. Called nayiq by the Central Alaskan Yup'ik people, the ringed seal is also hunted and eaten in Alaska.

Europe


Seals were hunted in northwest Europe and the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 more than 10,000 years ago. The first commercial hunting of seals is said to have occurred in 1515, when a cargo of fur seal skins from Uruguay was sent to Spain for sale in the markets of Seville
Seville
Seville is the artistic, historic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and of the province of Seville. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of above sea level...

.

North Atlantic


Migratory fishermen began hunting seals in the region of Newfoundland and Labrador and the Gulf of St. Lawrence in the 1500s. Large scale commercial seal hunting outside of Europe began with the Newfoundland
Newfoundland and Labrador
Newfoundland and Labrador is the easternmost province of Canada. Situated in the country's Atlantic region, it incorporates the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador with a combined area of . As of April 2011, the province's estimated population is 508,400...

 seal hunt, which became an annual event starting in 1723 and expanded rapidly near the turn of the 18th century. Growing from the enormous international Grand Banks
Grand Banks
The Grand Banks of Newfoundland are a group of underwater plateaus southeast of Newfoundland on the North American continental shelf. These areas are relatively shallow, ranging from in depth. The cold Labrador Current mixes with the warm waters of the Gulf Stream here.The mixing of these waters...

 fishery, the Newfoundland hunt began with small schooner
Schooner
A schooner is a type of sailing vessel characterized by the use of fore-and-aft sails on two or more masts with the forward mast being no taller than the rear masts....

-based hunts. Kill rates averaging 451,000 in the 1830s, rising to 546,000 annually during the first half of the next decade, led to a marked decline in the harp seal population, which adversely impacted profitability of the sealing industry.

In the 1870s, the industry was transformed by the arrival of large, steam-powered sealing vessels, such as the steam barquentine
Barquentine
A barquentine is a sailing vessel with three or more masts; with a square rigged foremast and fore-and-aft rigged main, mizzen and any other masts.-Modern barquentine sailing rig:...

s Bear and Terra Nova
Terra Nova (ship)
The Terra Nova was built in 1884 for the Dundee whaling and sealing fleet. She worked for 10 years in the annual seal fishery in the Labrador Sea, proving her worth for many years before she was called upon for expedition work.Terra Nova was ideally suited to the polar regions...

, which could smash through ice packs to the heart of large seal herds. These large and expensive ships required major capital investments from British and Newfoundland firms, and shifted the industry from merchants in small outports to companies based in St. John's, Newfoundland. By the late 19th century, the sealing industry in Newfoundland was second in importance only to cod fishing
Cod fishing in Newfoundland
Cod fishing in Newfoundland was carried out at a subsistence level for centuries, but large scale fishing began shortly after the European discovery of the North American continent in 1492, with the waters being found to be preternaturally plentiful, and ended after intense overfishing with the...

. The seal hunt provided critical winter wages for fishermen, but remained harsh and dangerous work, marked by major sealing disasters that claimed hundreds of lives, such as the loss the 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster involving the SS Southern Cross, the SS Newfoundland
SS Newfoundland
SS Newfoundland was a sealing ship which lost 78 sealers on the ice during extreme weather conditions in March 1914 which claimed lives from three sealing ships in an event known as the 1914 Newfoundland Sealing Disaster....

 and SS Stephano. After World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Newfoundland hunt was dominated by large Norwegian sealing vessels until the late 20th century, when the much diminished hunt shifted to smaller motor fishing vessels, based from outports around Newfoundland and Labrador. In 2007, the commercial seal hunt dividend contributed about $6 million to the Newfoundland GDP, a fraction of the industry's former importance.

South Atlantic


Sealing spread further in the late 18th century, when seal herds in the southern hemisphere began to be hunted by whalers
Whaling
Whaling is the hunting of whales mainly for meat and oil. Its earliest forms date to at least 3000 BC. Various coastal communities have long histories of sustenance whaling and harvesting beached whales...

. In 1778, English sealers brought back from the Island of South Georgia and the Magellan Strait area as many as 40,000 seal skins and 2,800 tons of elephant seal oil. In 1791, 102 vessels, manned by 3000 sealers, were hunting seals south of the equator. The principal American sealing ports were Stonington
Stonington, Connecticut
The Town of Stonington is located in New London County, Connecticut, in the state's southeastern corner. It includes the borough of Stonington, the villages of Pawcatuck, Lords Point, Wequetequock, the eastern halves of the villages of Mystic and Old Mystic...

 and New Haven, Connecticut. Most of the pelts taken during these expeditions would be sold in China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

.

Pacific


Commercial sealing in Australasia appears to have started with Eber Bunker
Eber Bunker
Eber Bunker was a sea captain and pastoralist, born on 7 March 1761 at Plymouth, Massachusetts. His parents were James Bunker and his wife Hannah, née Shurtleff.-1776-1786: Background:...

, master of the William and Ann who announced his intention in November 1791 to visit Dusky Sound
Dusky Sound
Dusky Sound is a fiord on the south west corner of New Zealand, in Fiordland National Park.-Geography:One of the most complex of the many fjords on this coast, it is also one of the largest, 40 kilometres in length and eight kilometres wide at its widest point...

 in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

, did call in that country and had skins on board when he got back to Britain. Captain Raven of the Britannia stationed a party at Dusky from 1792–93, but the discovery of Bass Strait
Bass Strait
Bass Strait is a sea strait separating Tasmania from the south of the Australian mainland, specifically the state of Victoria.-Extent:The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Bass Strait as follows:...

, between mainland Australia and Van Diemen's Land, now called Tasmania
Tasmania
Tasmania is an Australian island and state. It is south of the continent, separated by Bass Strait. The state includes the island of Tasmania—the 26th largest island in the world—and the surrounding islands. The state has a population of 507,626 , of whom almost half reside in the greater Hobart...

, saw the sealers' focus shift there in 1798, when a gang including Daniel Cooper was landed from the Nautilus on Cape Barren Island. With Bass Strait over-exploited by 1802 attention returned to southern New Zealand where Stewart Island/Rakiura
Stewart Island/Rakiura
Stewart Island/Rakiura is the third-largest island of New Zealand. It lies south of the South Island, across Foveaux Strait. Its permanent population is slightly over 400 people, most of whom live in the settlement of Oban.- History and naming :...

 and Foveaux Strait
Foveaux Strait
Foveaux Strait separates Stewart Island/Rakiura, New Zealand's third largest island, from the South Island. Three large bays, Te Waewae Bay, Oreti Beach and Toetoes Bay, sweep along the strait's northern coast, which also hosts Bluff township and harbour. Across the strait lie the Solander...

 were explored, exploited and charted from 1803 to 1804. Thereafter, attention shifted to the subantarctic Antipodes Islands
Antipodes Islands
The Antipodes Islands are inhospitable volcanic islands to the south of—and territorially part of—New Zealand...

, 1805–7, the Auckland Islands
Auckland Islands
The Auckland Islands are an archipelago of the New Zealand Sub-Antarctic Islands and include Auckland Island, Adams Island, Enderby Island, Disappointment Island, Ewing Island, Rose Island, Dundas Island and Green Island, with a combined area of...

 from 1806, the southeast coast of New Zealand's South Island, Otago Harbour
Otago Harbour
Otago Harbour is the natural harbour of Dunedin, New Zealand, consisting of a long, much-indented stretch of generally navigable water separating the Otago Peninsula from the mainland. They join at its southwest end, from the harbour mouth...

 and Solander Island by 1809, before focusing further to the south at the newly discovered Campbell Island
Campbell Island, New Zealand
Campbell Island is a remote, subantarctic island of New Zealand and the main island of the Campbell Island group. It covers of the group's , and is surrounded by numerous stacks, rocks and islets like Dent Island, Folly Island , Isle de Jeanette Marie, and Jacquemart Island, the latter being the...

 and Macquarie Island
Macquarie Island
Macquarie Island lies in the southwest corner of the Pacific Ocean, about half-way between New Zealand and Antarctica, at 54°30S, 158°57E. Politically, it has formed part of the Australian state of Tasmania since 1900 and became a Tasmanian State Reserve in 1978. In 1997 it became a world heritage...

 from 1810. In this time sealers were active on the southern coast of mainland Australia, for example at Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island
Kangaroo Island is Australia's third-largest island after Tasmania and Melville Island. It is southwest of Adelaide at the entrance of Gulf St Vincent. Its closest point to the mainland is off Cape Jervis, on the tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula in the state of South Australia. The island is long...

. This whole development has been called the first sealing boom and sparked the Sealers' War
Sealers' War
The Sealers' War, also known as the "War of the Shirt", was a conflict in southern New Zealand started in 1810 by a Māori chief's theft of a red shirt, a knife and some other articles from the sealing vessel the Sydney Cove in Otago Harbour, and the excessive revenge of unidentified Europeans from...

 in southern New Zealand. By the mid teens of the 19th century, sealing had faded. There was a brief revival from 1823, but this was very short-lived. Although highly profitable at times and affording New South Wales one of its earliest trade staples, its unregulated character saw its self-destruction. Some traders were Australia-based, notably Simeon Lord
Simeon Lord
Simeon Lord was a pioneer merchant and a magistrate in Australia. He became a prominent trader in Sydney, buying and selling ship cargoes. Despite being an emancipist Lord was made a magistrate by Governor Lachlan Macquarie, and he became a frequent guest at government house. His business...

, Henry Kable
Henry Kable
Henry Kable was born in Laxfield, Suffolk, England. Kable was known for being a businessman, but was convicted of burglary at Thetford, Norfolk, England, on 1 February 1783 and sentenced to death. This was commuted to transportation for fourteen years to America, but the American Revolution meant...

, James Underwood
James Underwood
Professor Sir James Underwood is a British pathologist who was awarded a knighthood for services to medicine in the 2005 New Year honours list.-Early life and education:...

 and Robert Campbell
Robert Campbell (1769–1846)
Robert Campbell was a pioneering and leading merchant in Sydney, a land-owner, a pastoralist, a philanthropist, and a politician being a member of the first New South Wales Legislative Council...

, but American and British traders and seamen were engaged in it, too, such as the Plummers of London and the Whitneys of New York.

By 1830, most Pacific seal stocks had been seriously depleted, and Lloyd's records only showed one full-time sealing vessel on its books. Since then, a number of nations have outlawed the hunting of seals and other marine mammals. The landmark North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911
North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911
The North Pacific Fur Seal Convention of 1911, formally known as the Convention between the United States and Other Powers Providing for the Preservation and Protection of Fur Seals, was an international treaty signed on July 7, 1911 designed to manage the commercial harvest of fur bearing mammals ...

 was the first international treaty specifically addressing wildlife conservation. Today, commercial sealing is conducted by only five nations: Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, Namibia
Namibia
Namibia, officially the Republic of Namibia , is a country in southern Africa whose western border is the Atlantic Ocean. It shares land borders with Angola and Zambia to the north, Botswana to the east and South Africa to the south and east. It gained independence from South Africa on 21 March...

, Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. The United States, which had been heavily involved in the sealing industry, now maintains a complete ban on the commercial hunting of marine mammals, with the exception of indigenous peoples who are allowed to hunt a small number of seals each year.

Equipment and method



In the Canadian commercial seal hunt, the majority of the hunters initiate the kill using a firearm. Ninety percent of sealers on the ice floes of the Front (east of Newfoundland), where the majority of the hunt occurs, use firearms.

An older and more traditional method of killing seals is with a hakapik
Hakapik
A hakapik is a club, of Norwegian design, used for killing seals. The hakapik is a multipurpose hunting tool—a heavy wooden club, with a hammer head , and a hook on the end. In Norway, and possibly elsewhere, the hakapik is used only to kill seal pups, while a rifle is used to kill more mature seals...

: a heavy wooden club with a hammer head and metal hook on the end. The hakapik is used because of its efficiency; the animal can be killed quickly without damage to its pelt. The hammer head is used to crush the seals' thin skulls, while the hook is used to move the carcasses.
Canadian sealing regulations describe the dimensions of the clubs and the hakapik
Hakapik
A hakapik is a club, of Norwegian design, used for killing seals. The hakapik is a multipurpose hunting tool—a heavy wooden club, with a hammer head , and a hook on the end. In Norway, and possibly elsewhere, the hakapik is used only to kill seal pups, while a rifle is used to kill more mature seals...

s, and caliber of the rifles and minimum bullet velocity, that can be used. They state: "Every person who strikes a seal with a club or hakapik shall strike the seal on the forehead until its skull has been crushed," and that "No person shall commence to skin or bleed a seal until the seal is dead," which occurs when it "has a glassy-eyed, staring appearance and exhibits no blinking reflex when its eye is touched while it is in a relaxed condition."
Reportedly, in one study, three out of eight times, the animal was not rendered either dead or unconscious by shooting, and the hunters would then kill the seal using a hakapik or other club of a type that is sanctioned by the governing authority.

Products made from seals


Seal skins have been used by aboriginal people for millennia to make waterproof jackets and boots, and seal fur to make fur coats. Pelts account for over half the processed value of a seal, selling at over C$100 each as of 2006. According to Paul Christian Rieber, of GC Rieber AS, the difficult ice conditions and low quotas in 2006 resulted in less access to seal pelts, which caused the commodity price to be pushed up. One high-end fashion designer, Donatella Versace
Donatella Versace
Donatella Versace is an Italian fashion designer and current Vice-President of the Versace Group, as well as chief designer. She owns 20 percent of the entire stock market assets of Versace. Her brother, Santo Versace, owns 30 percent...

, has begun to use seal pelts, while others, such as Calvin Klein
Calvin Klein
Calvin Richard Klein is an American fashion designer who launched the company that would later become Calvin Klein Inc. in 1968. In addition to clothing, Klein has also given his name to a range of perfumes, watches, and jewelry....

, Stella McCartney
Stella McCartney
Stella Nina McCartney is an English fashion designer. She is the daughter of former Beatles member Sir Paul McCartney and the late photographer and animal rights activist, Linda McCartney.-Early life:...

, Tommy Hilfiger
Tommy Hilfiger
Thomas Jacob "Tommy" Hilfiger is an American fashion designer and founder of the premium lifestyle brand Tommy Hilfiger.-Early life:...

, and Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren
Ralph Lauren is an American fashion designer and business executive; best known for his Polo Ralph Lauren clothing brand.-Early life:...

, refrain from using any kind of fur.
Seal meat is an important source of food for residents of small coastal communities. Meat is sold to the Asian pet food market; in 2004, only Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 and South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 purchased seal meat from Canada. The seal blubber is used to make seal oil, which is marketed as a fish oil supplement. In 2001, two percent of Canada's raw seal oil was processed and sold in Canadian health stores. There has been virtually no market for seal organs since 1998.

Sealing states


In 2005, three companies exported seal skin: Rieber in Norway
Norway
Norway , officially the Kingdom of Norway, is a Nordic unitary constitutional monarchy whose territory comprises the western portion of the Scandinavian Peninsula, Jan Mayen, and the Arctic archipelago of Svalbard and Bouvet Island. Norway has a total area of and a population of about 4.9 million...

, Atlantic Marine in Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

 and Great Greenland in Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

. Their clients were earlier French
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 fashion houses and fur makers in Europe, but today the fur is mainly exported to Russia and China.

Canada



In Canada, the season for the commercial hunt of harp seal
Harp Seal
The harp seal or saddleback seal is a species of earless seal native to the northernmost Atlantic Ocean and adjacent parts of the Arctic Ocean. It now belongs to the monotypic genus Pagophilus. Its scientific name, Pagophilus groenlandicus, means "ice-lover from Greenland", and its synonym, Phoca...

 is from November 15 to May 15. Most sealing occurs in late March in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and during the first or second week of April off Newfoundland, in an area known as the Front. This peak spring period is generally referred to as the "Canadian Seal Hunt".

In 2003, the three-year harp seal quota granted by Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, frequently referred to as DFO , is the department within the government of Canada that is responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs in support of Canada's economic, ecological and scientific interests in oceans and inland waters...

 was increased to a maximum of 975,000 animals per three years, with a maximum of 350,000 animals in any two consecutive years. In 2006, 325,000 harp seals, as well as 10,000 hooded seals and 10,400 grey seal
Grey Seal
The grey seal is found on both shores of the North Atlantic Ocean. It is a large seal of the family Phocidae or "true seals". It is the only species classified in the genus Halichoerus...

s were killed. An additional 10,000 animals were allocated for hunting by aboriginal peoples. The current northwest Atlantic harp seal population is estimated at 5.6 million animals.

Although around 70 percent of Canadian seals killed are taken on the Front, private monitors focus on the St. Lawrence hunt, because of its more convenient location. The 2006 St. Lawrence leg of the hunt was officially closed on Apr. 3, 2006; sealers had already exceeded the quota by 1,000 animals. On March 26, 2007 the Newfoundland and Labrador government launched a seal hunt website.

Warm winters in the Gulf of St. Lawrence have led to thinner and more unstable ice there. In 2007, Canada's federal fisheries ministry
Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Fisheries and Oceans Canada, frequently referred to as DFO , is the department within the government of Canada that is responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs in support of Canada's economic, ecological and scientific interests in oceans and inland waters...

 reported that while the pups are born on the ice as usual, the ice floes have started to break up before the pups learn to swim, causing the pups to drown. Canada reduced the 2007 quota by 20%, because overflights showed large numbers of seal pups were lost to thin and melting ice. In southern Labrador
Labrador
Labrador is the distinct, northerly region of the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. It comprises the mainland portion of the province, separated from the island of Newfoundland by the Strait of Belle Isle...

 and off Newfoundland's northeast coast, however, there was extra heavy ice in 2007, and the coast guard estimated as many as 100 vessels were trapped in ice simultaneously.

The 2010 hunt was cut short because demand for seal pelts was down. Only one local pelt buyer, NuTan Furs, offered to purchase pelts; and it committed to purchase less than 15,000 pelts. Pelt prices were about C$21/pelt in 2010, which is about twice the 2009 price and about 64% of the 2007 price. The reduced demand is attributable mainly to the 2009 ban on imports of seal products into the European Union.

The 2010 winter was unusually warm, with little ice forming in the Gulf of St. Lawrence in February and March, when harp seals give birth to their pups on ice floes. Around the Gulf, harp seals arrived in late winter to give birth on near-shore ice and even on beaches rather than on their usual whelping grounds: sturdy sea ice. Also, seal pups born elsewhere began floating to shore on small, shrinking pieces of ice. Many others stayed too far north, out of reach of all but the most determined hunters. Environment Canada, the weather forecasting agency, reported the ice was at the lowest level on record.

Regulations
The Fisheries Act established "Seal Protection Regulations" in the mid-1960s. The regulations were combined with other Canadian marine mammal
Marine mammal
Marine mammals, which include seals, whales, dolphins, and walruses, form a diverse group of 128 species that rely on the ocean for their existence. They do not represent a distinct biological grouping, but rather are unified by their reliance on the marine environment for feeding. The level of...

s regulations in 1993, to form the "Marine Mammal Regulations
Marine Mammal Regulations
Marine Mammal Regulations is a set of rules that govern the taking and treatment of marine mammals in Canada. The regulations are part of the Fisheries Act.The Marine Mammal Regulations s are divided into nine “parts”:...

". In addition to describing the use of the rifle and hakapik, the regulations state every person "who fishes for seals for personal or commercial use shall land the pelt
Fur
Fur is a synonym for hair, used more in reference to non-human animals, usually mammals; particularly those with extensives body hair coverage. The term is sometimes used to refer to the body hair of an animal as a complete coat, also known as the "pelage". Fur is also used to refer to animal...

 or the carcass of the seal." The commercial hunting of infant harp seals (whitecoats) and infant hooded seals (bluebacks) was banned in 1987 under pressure from animal rights groups. Now, seals may only be killed once they have started molting (from 12 to 15 days of age), as this coincides with the time when they are abandoned by their mothers.

Export
Canada's biggest market for seal pelts is Norway. Carino Limited is one of Newfoundland's largest seal pelt producers. Carino (CAnada–RIeber–NOrway) is marketing its seal pelts mainly through its parent company, GC Rieber Skinn, Bergen, Norway. Canada sold pelts to eleven countries in 2004. The next largest were Germany
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

, Greenland
Greenland
Greenland is an autonomous country within the Kingdom of Denmark, located between the Arctic and Atlantic Oceans, east of the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. Though physiographically a part of the continent of North America, Greenland has been politically and culturally associated with Europe for...

, and China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

/Hong Kong
Hong Kong
Hong Kong is one of two Special Administrative Regions of the People's Republic of China , the other being Macau. A city-state situated on China's south coast and enclosed by the Pearl River Delta and South China Sea, it is renowned for its expansive skyline and deep natural harbour...

. Other importers were Finland
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, Denmark
Denmark
Denmark is a Scandinavian country in Northern Europe. The countries of Denmark and Greenland, as well as the Faroe Islands, constitute the Kingdom of Denmark . It is the southernmost of the Nordic countries, southwest of Sweden and south of Norway, and bordered to the south by Germany. Denmark...

, France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

, Greece
Greece
Greece , officially the Hellenic Republic , and historically Hellas or the Republic of Greece in English, is a country in southeastern Europe....

, South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

, and Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

. Asia remains the principal market for seal meat exports. One of Canada's market access priorities for 2002 was to "continue to press Korean authorities to obtain the necessary approvals for the sale of seal meat for human consumption in Korea
Korea
Korea ) is an East Asian geographic region that is currently divided into two separate sovereign states — North Korea and South Korea. Located on the Korean Peninsula, Korea is bordered by the People's Republic of China to the northwest, Russia to the northeast, and is separated from Japan to the...

." Canadian and Korean officials agreed in 2003 on specific Korean import requirements for seal meat. For 2004, only Taiwan
Taiwan
Taiwan , also known, especially in the past, as Formosa , is the largest island of the same-named island group of East Asia in the western Pacific Ocean and located off the southeastern coast of mainland China. The island forms over 99% of the current territory of the Republic of China following...

 and South Korea
South Korea
The Republic of Korea , , is a sovereign state in East Asia, located on the southern portion of the Korean Peninsula. It is neighbored by the People's Republic of China to the west, Japan to the east, North Korea to the north, and the East China Sea and Republic of China to the south...

 purchased seal meat from Canada.

Canadian seal product exports reached C$18 million in 2006. Of this, C$5.4 million went to the EU. In 2009, the European Union banned all seal imports, shrinking the market. Where pelts once sold for more than $100, they now fetch $8 to $15 each.

Greenland


Although official figures for the Greenland seal hunt are not available, the government of Canada estimates 20,000 to 25,000 seals are killed in Greenland annually. In January 2006, the government of Greenland banned imports of Canadian seal skins, citing fears Canadian seals are brutally beaten to death. The boycott may be an effort to distance Greenland's own seal hunt from Canada's, and spare themselves negative press in the process. The ban was rescinded in May 2006, with the Greenland Home Rule Government noting the seal hunt in Canada has sensible regulations on hunting methods, drawn up in close cooperation with biologists, veterinarians, weapons experts and seal hunters. It further noted seal-hunting in Canada is subject to strict and extensive control measures, to ensure the use of effective and humane killing methods.

In Greenland, seal hunting is conducted with rifles - the seals being shot in the head from a small open boat while they sit on an ice floe. The shot needs to be very accurate and the boat must rush up to the seal to hook the carcass out of the water where it falls within a few seconds before it sinks. The economy of certain very rural Greenlandic villages, such as Aappilattoq
Aappilattoq, Kujalleq
Aappilattoq is a village in the Kujalleq municipality in southern Greenland. The name means "sea anemone" in the Greenlandic language...

, are highly dependent upon such seal hunting.

Namibia

Year Annual Quota Catch
Before 1990 17,000 pups
1998–2000 30,000 pups
2001–2003 60,000 pups
2004–2006 60,000 pups, 7,000 bulls
2007 80,000 pups, 6,000 bulls
2008 80,000 pups, 6,000 bulls 23,000 seals
2009 85,000 pups, 7,000 bulls
2010 85,000 pups, 7,000 bulls


Namibia is the only country in the Southern Hemisphere
Southern Hemisphere
The Southern Hemisphere is the part of Earth that lies south of the equator. The word hemisphere literally means 'half ball' or "half sphere"...

 culling seals. Although the protection and the sustainable use of natural resources is part of Namibia's constitution, it regularly conducts the second highest seal harvest in the world, mainly because of the huge amount of fish seals are estimated to consume. While a government-initiated study found seal colonies consume more fish than the entire fishing industry can catch, animal protection society Seal Alert South Africa estimated less than 0.3% losses to commercial fisheries.

Harvesting is done from July to November on two places, Cape Cross
Cape Cross
Cape Cross is a cape in the South Atlantic on the coast of Namibia, on the C34 highway some 60 kilometres north of Hentiesbaai and 120 km north of Swakopmund on the west coast of Namibia....

 and Atlas Bay, and in the past at Wolf Bay. These two colonies together account for 75% of the cape fur seal population of the country.

Cape Cross is a tourism resort and the largest cape fur colony in Namibia. The Department of Tourism has stated that "Cape Cross Seal Reserve was established to protect the largest breeding colony of Cape fur seals in the world". In season, the resort is closed and sealed off during the culling in the early morning hours, journalists are not allowed to enter. Namibia’s SPCA
Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a non-profit animal welfare organization originally founded in England in 1824 to pass laws protecting carriage horses from abuse. SPCA groups are now found in many nations, where they campaign for animal welfare, assist in cruelty to animals...

 is allowed to observe the culling from 2010 onwards.

Namibia's Ministry of Fisheries announced a three-year rolling quota for the seal harvest, although different quotas per year are sometimes reported. The quota announced was in 2009, valid until 2011. The quotas are usually not filled by the concession holders.

In 2009, an unusual bid to end seal culling in Namibia was attempted when Seal Alert tried to raise money to purchase the only buyer of Namibian seals, Australian-based Hatem Yavuz, lock, stock, and barrel for US$14.2 million. The project did not materialise. The Government of Namibia, on the other hand, offered the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) an opportunity to buy out the two sealers in Namibia to finally end the culling. The offer was rejected.

In 2011, South African activists launched a boycott of Namibian tourism and Namibian products in response to the cull.

Norway

Year Quota Catch
1950 255,056
1955 295,172
1960 216,034
1965 140,118
1970 188,980
1975 112,274
1980 60,746
1985 19,902
1990 15,232
1992 14,076
1993 12,772
1994 18,113
1995 15,981
1996 16,737
1997 10,114
1998 9,067
1999 6,399
2000 20,549
2001
2002 10,691
2003 12,870
2004 30,600 14,746
2005 30,600 21,597
2006 45,200 17,037
2007 46,200 8,000
2008 31,000 1,260



The Norwegian sealing season runs from January to September. The hunt involves "seal catching" by seagoing sealing boats on the Arctic ice shelf
Ice shelf
An ice shelf is a thick, floating platform of ice that forms where a glacier or ice sheet flows down to a coastline and onto the ocean surface. Ice shelves are only found in Antarctica, Greenland and Canada. The boundary between the floating ice shelf and the grounded ice that feeds it is called...

, and "seal hunting" on the coast and islands of mainland Norway. The latter is carried out by small groups of licenced hunters shooting seals from land and using small boats to retrieve the catch.

In 2005, Norway began offering seal hunting as a tourist attraction. In 2006, 17,037 seals (including 13,390 harp and 3,647 hooded seals) were harvested. In 2007, the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs
Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs
The Royal Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs is a Norwegian ministry responsible for fisheries industry, aquaculture industry, seafood safety, fish health and welfare, harbours, water transport infrastructure and emergency preparedness for pollution incidents. It is led by Lisbeth...

 stated up to 13.5 million Norwegian krone
Norwegian krone
The krone is the currency of Norway and its dependent territories. The plural form is kroner . It is subdivided into 100 øre. The ISO 4217 code is NOK, although the common local abbreviation is kr. The name translates into English as "crown"...

 (about US$2.6 million) would be given in funding to vessels in the 2007 Norwegian seal hunt.

Regulations
All Norwegian sealing vessels are required to carry a qualified veterinary inspector on board. Norwegian sealers are required to pass a shooting test each year before the season starts, using the same weapon and ammunition as they would on the ice. Likewise, they have to pass a hakapik test.

Adult seals more than one year old must be shot in the head with expanding bullets, and cannot be clubbed to death. The hakapik shall be used to ensure the animal is dead. This is done by crushing the skull of the shot adult seal with the short end of the hakapik, before the long spike is thrust deep into the animal's brain. The seal shall then be bled by making an incision from its jaw to the end of its sternum
Sternum
The sternum or breastbone is a long flat bony plate shaped like a capital "T" located anteriorly to the heart in the center of the thorax...

. The killing and bleeding must be done on the ice, and live animals may never be brought onboard the ship. Young seals may be killed using just the hakapik, but only in the aforementioned manner, i.e., they need not be shot.

Seals in the water and seals with young may not be killed, and the use of traps, artificial lighting, aeroplanes or helicopters is forbidden.

The hakapik may only be used by certified seal-catchers (fangstmenn) operating in the pack ice of the Arctic Ocean
Arctic Ocean
The Arctic Ocean, located in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Arctic north polar region, is the smallest and shallowest of the world's five major oceanic divisions...

 and not by coastal seal hunters. All coastal seal hunters must be pre-approved by the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries
Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries
The Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries is Norwegian government agency under the Ministry of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs.Established in 1900, it is responsible for advising and executing the ministry's policy. It formerly conducted research, but the Institute of Marine Research was split out in...

 and have to pass a large game hunting test.

In 2007, the European Food Safety Agency confirmed the animals are put to death faster and more humanely in the Norwegian sealing than in large game hunting on land.

Export

In Norway in 2004, only Rieber worked with sealskin and seal oil. In 2001, the biggest producer of raw seal oil was Canada. (Two percent of the raw oil was processed and sold in Canadian health stores). Rieber had the majority of all distribution of raw seal oil in the world market, but there was no demand for seal oil. From 1995 to 2005, Rieber annually received between 2 and 3 million Norwegian krone
Norwegian krone
The krone is the currency of Norway and its dependent territories. The plural form is kroner . It is subdivided into 100 øre. The ISO 4217 code is NOK, although the common local abbreviation is kr. The name translates into English as "crown"...

 in subsidy. A 2003–2004 parliamentary report says CG Rieber Skinn is the only company in the world that delivers skin from bluebacks
Hooded Seal
The hooded seal is an arctic pinniped found only in the central and western North Atlantic ranging from Svalbard in the east to the Gulf of St...

.
Most of the skins processed by Rieber have been imported from abroad, mainly from Canada. Only a small portion is from the Norwegian hunt. Of the processed skin, five percent is sold in Norway; the rest is exported to the Russian and Asian markets.

Fortuna Oils AS (established in 2004) is a 100% owned subsidiary of GC Rieber. They get the majority of their raw oil imported from Canada. They also have access to raw oil from the Norwegian hunt.

Russia


The Russian seal hunt has not been well monitored since the breakup of the Soviet Union. The quota in 1998 was 35,000 animals. Reportedly, many whitecoat pups are not properly killed and are transported, while injured, to processing areas. In January 2000, a bill to ban seal hunting was passed by the Russian parliament by 273 votes to 1, but was vetoed by President Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Putin
Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin served as the second President of the Russian Federation and is the current Prime Minister of Russia, as well as chairman of United Russia and Chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Union of Russia and Belarus. He became acting President on 31 December 1999, when...

.

On September 21, 2007 in Arkhangelsk
Arkhangelsk
Arkhangelsk , formerly known as Archangel in English, is a city and the administrative center of Arkhangelsk Oblast, Russia. It lies on both banks of the Northern Dvina River near its exit into the White Sea in the north of European Russia. The city spreads for over along the banks of the river...

, the Norwegian GC Rieber Skinn AS proposed a joint Russian–Norwegian seal hunting project. The campaign was carried out from one hunt boat supplied by GS Rieber Skinn AS in 2007, lasted two weeks, and brought in 40 000 roubles per Russian hunter. GS Rieber skinn AS declared a plan to order 20 boats and donate them to the Pomor. CG Rieber Skinn AS, in 2007, established a daughter company in Arkhangelsk, called GC Rieber Skinn Pomor'e Lic. (GC Rieber Skinn Pomorje).

The Norwegian company Polardrift AS, in 2007, had plans to establish a company in Russia, and operate under Russian flag, in close cooperation with GC Rieber Skinn Pomor'e.

Plans for the 2008 season included both helicopter-based hunts, mainly to take whitecoat
Whitecoat
A whitecoat is a newborn harp or grey seal with soft, white fur.-From newborn to whitecoat:Newborn seals have yellow fur because of amniotic fluid, and are still wet. When the pup dries, it is called a yellowcoat. The amniotic stain fades and the fur turns white within a few days, and it gets the...

s, and boat-based hunts, mainly targeting beaters.

On March 18, 2009, Russia's Minister of Natural Resources and Ecology, Yuriy Trutnev, announced a complete ban
Ban (law)
A ban is, generally, any decree that prohibits something.Bans are formed for the prohibition of activities within a certain political territory. Some see this as a negative act and others see it as maintaining the "status quo"...

 on the hunting of harp seal
Harp Seal
The harp seal or saddleback seal is a species of earless seal native to the northernmost Atlantic Ocean and adjacent parts of the Arctic Ocean. It now belongs to the monotypic genus Pagophilus. Its scientific name, Pagophilus groenlandicus, means "ice-lover from Greenland", and its synonym, Phoca...

s younger than one year of age in the White Sea
White Sea
The White Sea is a southern inlet of the Barents Sea located on the northwest coast of Russia. It is surrounded by Karelia to the west, the Kola Peninsula to the north, and the Kanin Peninsula to the northeast. The whole of the White Sea is under Russian sovereignty and considered to be part of...

.

Sealing debate


Canada has become the center of the sealing debate because of the comparatively large size of its hunt.

Cruelty to animals



According to a 2002 peer-reviewed study done by five Canadian veterinarians and funded by the Canadian Veterinary Medical Association (CVMA), "the large majority of seals taken during this hunt (at best, 98% in work reported here) are killed in an acceptably humane manner." These veterinarians found, "During the 2001 season in the Gulf, three (1.9%) of 158 seals brought on board of the sealing vessels and directly observed by Daoust had not been killed, and in one (0.86%) of 116 interactions between seals and sealers observed on videotapes by Daoust and Crook, the seal also did not appear to have been killed before being hooked and brought on board." They thus concluded "This small proportion of animals that are not killed efficiently justifies continued attention to this industry’s activities, preferably by members of the veterinary profession, who are best equipped to assess the humaneness of the killing methods."

In observing four videos taken during the 2001 seal hunt in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, the authors of this report state, "A large proportion (87%) of the sealers recorded on the four videotapes failed to palpate the skull or check the corneal reflex before proceeding to hook or bleed the seal or go to another seal."

The Royal Commission on Seals and the Sealing Industry in Canada, also known as the Malouf Commission, concluded in a 1986 report, "Judged by the criteria of rapidity of unconsciousness and particularly the absence of preslaughter stress, the clubbing of seal pups is, when properly performed, at least as humane as, and often more humane than, the killing methods used in commercial slaughterhouses, which are accepted by a majority of the public."

According to the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO), "The Marine Mammal Regulations stipulate that seals must be harvested quickly using only high-powered rifles, shotguns firing slugs, clubs or hakapiks.

However, a 2001 study, by Burdon, et al., the IFAW Veterinary Report on the Canadian Commercial Seal Hunt 2001 conducted by five international veterinarians and commissioned by IFAW, an organization that opposes the seal hunt, disputes these findings. This report concludes the Canadian commercial seal hunt results in considerable and unacceptable suffering.

The veterinarians examined 76 seal carcasses and found that in 17% of the cases, there were no detectable lesions of the skull, leading them to conclude the clubbing likely did not result in loss of consciousness. In 25% of the remaining cases, the carcasses had minimal to moderate skull fractures, indicative of a "decreased level of consciousness", but probably not unconsciousness. The remaining 58% of the carcasses examined showed extensive skull fractures.

This veterinary study included examination of video footage of 179 seals hunted in 1998, 1999, and 2000. In these videos, 96 seals were shot, 56 were shot and then clubbed or gaffed, 19 were clubbed or gaffed, and 8 were killed by unknown means. In 79% of these cases, sealers did not check the corneal reflex to ensure that the seals were dead prior to hooking or skinning them. In only 6% of these cases, seals were bled immediately, where struck. The average time from initial strike to bleeding was 66 seconds.

In 2005, IFAW published a comparison of the CVMA-funded study and its own study, entitled Canada’s Commercial Seal Hunt is "Not Acceptably Humane". In this critique, Dr. David M. Lavigne, Science Advisor to IFAW, writes, "The Burdon et al. evidence cited above addresses the question of whether seals were likely conscious or unconscious at the time they were skinned, using post-mortem examination of skulls. In marked contrast, the figure cited from Daoust et al.’s report represents the number of seals clubbed or shot that were brought on board sealing vessels while still conscious. That number ignores any and all animal suffering that occurs between the time animals are clubbed or shot until they eventually reach a sealing vessel, usually on the end of a hook or gaff." Another difference between these reports is "Daoust et al.’s direct observations were made under very different conditions than those provided by Burdon et al. Unlike Burdon et al.’s observations, they were made directly from sealing vessels so that the sealers were unavoidably aware that observers were present. As Daoust et al. (p 692) admit, the presence of an observer on a sealing vessel “may have incited sealers to hit the seals skulls more vigorously”. Of course, the presence of an observer also has the potential to modify other sealing practices, including checking for a corneal reflex and bleeding animals immediately after clubbing."

In 2005, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) commissioned the Independent Veterinarians Working Group Report. With reference to video evidence, the report states: "Perception of the seal hunt seems to be based largely on emotion, and on visual images that are often difficult even for experienced observers to interpret with certainty. While a hakapik strike on the skull of a seal appears brutal, it is humane if it achieves rapid, irreversible loss of consciousness leading to death."

Ecological feasibility


In 2007, the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans conducted a population survey. The resulting estimate of the harp seal population was 5.5 million (95% CI 3.8 million to 7.1 million). In 2004, the population estimate was similar: 5.9 million (95% CI 4.6 million to 7.2 million).

Prior to the arrival of European settlers, a much larger population of harp seals migrated to the waters off Newfoundland and Labrador. Settlers began exploiting the population, with kills peaking in the middle of the 1800s. In the first half of the 1840s, 546,000 seals were killed annually. This led to a population decline that adversely affected the industry.

In the 1950s and 1960s an average of over 291,000 seal pups were killed each year. This led to a population decline to less than 2 million seals. Conservationists became alarmed and demanded controls on kill rates. Thus in 1971, Canada instituted a quota system. In the years from 1971 to 1982, an average of 165,627 seals were killed.

In 1983, the European Union banned the import of whitecoat harp seal pup pelts (pelts from pups less than about two weeks of age, when the pups molt). As a result, the market for pelts dropped. The kill rates thus declined in subsequent years to an average of about 52,000 seals from 1983 to 1995. During this time, the harp seal population increased.

After the European Union's ban on whitecoat pelt imports, the Canadian government and sealing industry developed markets for the pelts of beaters. In 1996, the kill rates again increased to over 200,000 each year, except in the year 2000. In 2002 and 2004 to 2006, over 300,000 seal pups were killed each year.

As a result of population concerns, Norway's seal hunt is now controlled by quotas based on recommendations from International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
International Council for the Exploration of the Sea
The International Council for the Exploration of the Sea is the world’s oldest intergovernmental science organization. ICES is headquartered in Copenhagen, Denmark, where its multinational Secretariat staff of 51 provide scientific, administrative and secretarial support to the ICES community...

 (ICES), However, sealing in Norway has declined in recent years, and the quotas have not been reached.

In addition to hunting pressures on the population of harp seals, as ice seals that are dependent on solid sea ice for whelping, the harp seal population is affected by global climate change. The lack of sea ice in recent years has resulted in the drowning deaths of tens of thousands of newborn harp seal pups.

Objections to fur


Animal welfare advocates and organizations, such as PETA
Peta
Peta can refer to:* peta-, an SI prefix denoting a factor of 1015* Peta, Greece, a town in Greece* Peta, the Pāli word for a Preta, or hungry ghost in Buddhism* Peta Wilson, an Australian actress and model* Peta Todd, English glamour model...

, object to the use of real fur when many synthetic "faux fur" alternatives are available. Fur advocates claim that faux fur does not compare to real fur's superior warmth and style. They also claim it is a renewable resource and synthetic fur is a petroleum-based product and can release highly toxic prussic acid into the environment.

Economic impact


According to Canadian authorities, the value of the 2004 seal harvest was C$
Canadian dollar
The Canadian dollar is the currency of Canada. As of 2007, the Canadian dollar is the 7th most traded currency in the world. It is abbreviated with the dollar sign $, or C$ to distinguish it from other dollar-denominated currencies...

16.5 million, which significantly contributes to seal manufacturing companies, and for several thousand fishermen and First Nations
First Nations
First Nations is a term that collectively refers to various Aboriginal peoples in Canada who are neither Inuit nor Métis. There are currently over 630 recognised First Nations governments or bands spread across Canada, roughly half of which are in the provinces of Ontario and British Columbia. The...

 peoples. For some sealers, they claim, proceeds from the hunt make up a third of their annual income. Critics, however, say this represents only a tiny fraction of the C$600-million Newfoundland fishing industry. Sealing opponents also say $16.5 million is insignificant, compared to the funding required to regulate and subsidize the hunt. For 1995 and 1996, there are confirmed reports Fisheries and Oceans Canada encouraged maximum utilization of harvested seals through a $0.20 per pound meat
Meat
Meat is animal flesh that is used as food. Most often, this means the skeletal muscle and associated fat and other tissues, but it may also describe other edible tissues such as organs and offal...

 subsidy. The level of subsidy totalled $650,000 in 1997, $440,000 in 1998 and $250,000 in 1999. There were no meat subsidies in 2000. Some critics, such as the McCartneys (see below), have suggested promoting that area as an ecotourism
Ecotourism
Ecotourism is a form of tourism visiting fragile, pristine, and usually protected areas, intended as a low impact and often small scale alternative to standard commercial tourism...

 site would be far more lucrative than the annual harvest.

As a culling method


In March 2005, Greenpeace asked the DFO to "dispel the myth that seals are hampering the recovery of cod stocks." In doing so, they implied the seal hunt is, at least in part, a cull designed to increase cod stocks. Cod fishing has traditionally been a key part of the Atlantic fishery, and an important part of the economy of Newfoundland and Labrador. Fisheries and Oceans Canada responded there is no connection between the annual seal harvest and the cod fishery, and that the seal hunt is "established on sound conservation principles."

Protests


Many animal protection groups encourage people to petition against the harvest. Respect for Animals and Humane Society International
Humane Society International
The Humane Society International is the international division of The Humane Society of the United States. Founded in 1991, HSI has expanded The HSUS's activities into Central and South America, Africa, and Asia...

 believe the hunt will be ended only by the financial pressure of a boycott of Canadian seafood. In 2005, the Humane Society of the United States
Humane Society of the United States
The Humane Society of the United States , based in Washington, D.C., is the largest animal advocacy organization in the world. In 2009, HSUS reported assets of over US$160 million....

 (HSUS) called for such a boycott in the United States.

Protesters frequently use images of whitecoats, despite Canada's ban on the commercial hunting of suckling pups. The HSUS explains this by saying images of the legally hunted ragged jackets are nearly indistinguishable from those of whitecoats. Also, they state, according to official DFO kill reports, 97% percent of the estimated million harp seals killed in the last four years have been under three months old, and the majority of these are less than one month old.
On March 26, 2006, seven antisealing activists were arrested in the Gulf of St. Lawrence for violating the terms of their observer permits. By law, observers must maintain a ten-meter distance between themselves and the sealers. Five of the protesters were later acquitted. In the same month, as part of a counterprotest, Newfoundland and Labrador Premier
Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is the first minister, head of government and de facto chief executive for the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Before 1964, the position's official title was Premier of Newfoundland...

 Danny Williams
Danny Williams (politician)
Daniel E. "Danny" Williams, QC, MHA is a Canadian politician, businessman and lawyer who served as the ninth Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador between November 6, 2003, and December 3, 2010. Williams was born and raised in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador...

 encouraged people in the province to boycott Costco
Costco
Costco Wholesale Corporation is the largest membership warehouse club chain in the United States. it is the third largest retailer in the United States, where it originated, and the ninth largest in the world...

 after the retailer decided to stop carrying seal oil capsules. Costco stated politics played no role in their decision to remove the capsules, and on April 4 that year, they were again being sold in Costco stores.

The law was approved by the Council of the European Union
Council of the European Union
The Council of the European Union is the institution in the legislature of the European Union representing the executives of member states, the other legislative body being the European Parliament. The Council is composed of twenty-seven national ministers...

 without debate on July 27, 2009. Denmark, Romania, and Austria abstained. The Canadian government responded to the move by stating that it will take the European Union to the World Trade Organization
World Trade Organization
The World Trade Organization is an organization that intends to supervise and liberalize international trade. The organization officially commenced on January 1, 1995 under the Marrakech Agreement, replacing the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade , which commenced in 1948...

 if the ban does not exempt Canada. Canadian Inuit
Inuit
The Inuit are a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Canada , Denmark , Russia and the United States . Inuit means “the people” in the Inuktitut language...

s from Nunavut
Nunavut
Nunavut is the largest and newest federal territory of Canada; it was separated officially from the Northwest Territories on April 1, 1999, via the Nunavut Act and the Nunavut Land Claims Agreement Act, though the actual boundaries had been established in 1993...

 territory have opposed the ban and lobbied European Parliament members against it. The legislation banning seal products is likely to come into effect before the beginning of the hunting season in 2010.

Celebrity involvement




Numerous celebrities have opposed the commercial seal hunt. Rex Murphy
Rex Murphy
Rex Murphy is a Canadian commentator and author, primarily on Canadian political and social matters.Murphy was born in Carbonear, Newfoundland, 105 kilometres west of St. John's and is the second of five children of Harry and Marie Murphy...

 has reported celebrities have been used by antihunt activists since the mid-20th century; Yvette Mimieux
Yvette Mimieux
Yvette Carmen Mimieux is a retired American movie and television actress.-Early life and career:Yvette Mimieux was born in Los Angeles, California, to a French father and Mexican mother, Carmen Montemayor...

 and Loretta Swit
Loretta Swit
Loretta Swit is an American stage and television actress known for her character roles. Swit is best-known for her portrayal of Major Margaret "Hot Lips" Houlihan on M*A*S*H.-Early life:...

 were recruited to attract the attention of international gossip magazines. Other celebrities who have aligned themselves against the hunt include Richard Dean Anderson
Richard Dean Anderson
Richard Dean Anderson is an American television and film actor, producer and composer. He began his television career in 1976 as Dr. Jeff Webber in the American soap opera series General Hospital, then rose to prominence as the lead actor in the television series MacGyver...

, Kim Basinger
Kim Basinger
Kimila Ann "Kim" Basinger is an American actress and former fashion model.She is known for her portrayals of Domino Petachi, the Bond girl in Never Say Never Again , and Vicki Vale, the female lead in Batman . Basinger received a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actress – Motion Picture...

, Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche
Juliette Binoche is a French actress, artist and dancer. She has appeared in more than 40 feature films, been recipient of numerous international accolades, is a published author and has appeared on stage across the world. Coming from an artistic background, she began taking acting lessons during...

, Sir Paul McCartney
Paul McCartney
Sir James Paul McCartney, MBE, Hon RAM, FRCM is an English musician, singer-songwriter and composer. Formerly of The Beatles and Wings , McCartney is listed in Guinness World Records as the "most successful musician and composer in popular music history", with 60 gold discs and sales of 100...

, Heather Mills, Pamela Anderson
Pamela Anderson
Pamela Denise Anderson is a Canadian-American actress, model, producer, author, activist, and former showgirl, known for her roles on the television series Home Improvement, Baywatch, and V.I.P. She was chosen as a Playmate of the Month for Playboy magazine in February 1990...

, Martin Sheen
Martin Sheen
Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez , better known by his stage name Martin Sheen, is an American film actor best known for his performances in the films Badlands and Apocalypse Now , and in the television series The West Wing from 1999 to 2006.He is considered one of the best actors never to be...

, Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brosnan
Pierce Brendan Brosnan, OBE is an Irish actor, film producer and environmentalist. After leaving school at 16, Brosnan began training in commercial illustration, but trained at the Drama Centre in London for three years...

, Morrissey
Morrissey
Steven Patrick Morrissey , known as Morrissey, is an English singer and lyricist. He rose to prominence in the 1980s as the lyricist and vocalist of the alternative rock band The Smiths. The band was highly successful in the United Kingdom but broke up in 1987, and Morrissey began a solo career,...

, Paris Hilton
Paris Hilton
Paris Whitney Hilton is an American businesswoman, heiress, and socialite. She is a great-granddaughter of Conrad Hilton . Hilton is known for her controversial participation in a sex tape in 2003, and appearance on the television series The Simple Life alongside fellow socialite and childhood...

, Robert Kennedy, Jr., Rutger Hauer, Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Bardot
Brigitte Anne-Marie Bardot is a French former fashion model, actress, singer and animal rights activist. She was one of the best-known sex-symbols of the 1960s.In her early life, Bardot was an aspiring ballet dancer...

, Ed Begley, Jr.
Ed Begley, Jr.
Edward James "Ed" Begley, Jr. is an American actor and environmentalist. Begley has appeared in hundreds of films, television shows, and stage performances. He is best known for his role as Dr. Victor Ehrlich, on the television series St...

, Farley Mowat
Farley Mowat
Farley McGill Mowat, , born May 12, 1921 is a conservationist and one of Canada's most widely-read authors.His works have been translated into 52 languages and he has sold more than 14 million books. He achieved fame with the publication of his books on the Canadian North, such as People of the...

, Linda Blair
Linda Blair
Linda Denise Blair is an American actress. Blair is best known for her role as the possessed child, Regan, in the 1973 film The Exorcist, for which she was nominated for an Academy Award and two Golden Globes, winning one. She reprised her role in 1977's Exorcist II: The Heretic.-Biography:Blair...

, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers
Red Hot Chili Peppers is an American rock band, formed in Los Angeles in 1983. The group's musical style primarily consists of rock with an emphasis on funk, as well as elements from other genres such as punk, hip hop and psychedelic rock...

,

In March 2006, Brigitte Bardot traveled to Ottawa to protest the hunt, though the prime minister turned down her request for a meeting. During the same month, Paul and Heather Mills McCartney toured the Gulf of St. Lawrence's sealing grounds, and spoke out against the seal hunt, including as guests on Larry King Live
Larry King Live
Larry King Live is an American talk show hosted by Larry King on CNN from 1985 to 2010. It was CNN's most watched and longest-running program, with over one million viewers nightly....

, where the two debated with Danny Williams
Danny Williams (politician)
Daniel E. "Danny" Williams, QC, MHA is a Canadian politician, businessman and lawyer who served as the ninth Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador between November 6, 2003, and December 3, 2010. Williams was born and raised in St. John's, Newfoundland and Labrador...

, the Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador
Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador
The Premier of Newfoundland and Labrador is the first minister, head of government and de facto chief executive for the Canadian province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Before 1964, the position's official title was Premier of Newfoundland...

.

In 1978, marine ecologist Jacques Cousteau criticized the focus on the seal hunt, arguing it is entirely emotional: "We have to be logical. We have to aim our activity first to the endangered species. Those who are moved by the plight of the harp seal could also be moved by the plight of the pig - the way they are slaughtered is horrible."

Fiction

  • Kipling's The White Seal, part of The Jungle Book
    The Jungle Book
    The Jungle Book is a collection of stories by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling. The stories were first published in magazines in 1893–4. The original publications contain illustrations, some by Rudyard's father, John Lockwood Kipling. Kipling was born in India and spent the first six...

    , describes seal hunting from the seals' point of view, with the central character being a white seal
    Fur seal
    Fur seals are any of nine species of pinnipeds in the Otariidae family. One species, the northern fur seal inhabits the North Pacific, while seven species in the Arctocephalus genus are found primarily in the Southern hemisphere...

     seeking for his seals a safe haven from hunters.
  • Jack London
    Jack London
    John Griffith "Jack" London was an American author, journalist, and social activist. He was a pioneer in the then-burgeoning world of commercial magazine fiction and was one of the first fiction writers to obtain worldwide celebrity and a large fortune from his fiction alone...

    's novel The Sea Wolf takes place aboard "the schooner Ghost, bound seal-hunting for Japan" circa 1893.
  • In the web-based MMORPG
    MMORPG
    Massively multiplayer online role-playing game is a genre of role-playing video games in which a very large number of players interact with one another within a virtual game world....

     Kingdom of Loathing
    Kingdom of Loathing
    Kingdom of Loathing is a browser-based, multiplayer role-playing game designed and operated by Asymmetric Publications, including creator Zack "Jick" Johnson and writer Josh "Mr. Skullhead" Nite. The game was released in 2003...

    , one of the classes available for selection is a Seal Clubber.

See also


  • John Davis (sealer)
    John Davis (sealer)
    Captain John Davis was a seal hunter from Connecticut, USA who captained men who may have been the first to have set foot on Antarctica on 7 February 1821 shortly after the first sightings of the new continent by Fabian von Bellingshausen, Mikhail Petrovich Lazarev, Edward Bransfield and Nathaniel...

  • Odd F. Lindberg
    Odd F. Lindberg
    Odd F. Lindberg is a Norwegian freelance journalist, Arctic explorer and film maker.-Sealing report in Bladet Tromsø:Lindberg had been making documentaries and worked as a journalist, author and photographer until 1988, when he gave an official report to the Norwegian Ministry of Fisheries and...

  • Flipper pie
    Flipper pie
    Flipper pie is a traditional Eastern Canadian meat pie made from young harp seal flippers. It is specific to the province of Newfoundland and Labrador and commonly eaten in April and May, during the annual seal hunt.-References:* *...

  • Seal finger
    Seal finger
    Seal finger, also known as sealer's finger and spekk-finger , is an infection that afflicts the fingers of sealers and other people who handle pinnipeds, as a result of bites or contact with exposed seal bones; it has also been contracted by exposure to untreated seal pelts...

  • Jerry Vlasak
    Jerry Vlasak
    Jerry Vlasak is an American trauma surgeon and animal rights activist. He is a press officer for the North American Animal Liberation Press Office, a former director of the Animal Defense League of Los Angeles, and an advisor to SPEAK, the Voice for the Animals.Vlasak came to public attention in...


Views proposing seal hunt


Views opposing seal hunt


Various


News articles