Nova Scotia Grey Seals

There is another slaughter of baby seals that occurs on the east coast of Canada each year. This slaughter is on a much smaller scale and happens very quietly, for the most part away from the public notice, but the nature of the slaughter is the same. Fishermen, untrained in so-called "humane killing techniques" who pay just a few dollars for a sealing license, beat and shoot to death recently weaned defenceless seal pups just a few weeks old...for their fur.

Motivation to Kill

Why do Nova Scotia fishermen kill grey seal pups? What drives a man (or woman) to bash in the skull of a defenceless seal pup? Nova Scotia fishermen/sealers will give you the following reasons:

- Nova Scotia sealers claim they kill seals for economic reasons; that they rely on sealing to supplement their income in order to provide for their families. This is simply not true. Sealing is an off-season activity; these men make the bulk of their earnings participating in other fisheries such as lobster, crab and shrimp. The commercial grey seal hunt represents a tiny portion of their annual earnings, and with rapidly shrinking markets, that portion grows smaller and smaller.

- Nova Scotia sealers also claim seal populations are too large and must be controlled. This is simply not the case. The grey seal population in the east coast of Canada was considered extirpated due to over-hunting, and the herd has been in recovery, not overpopulation. Marine biologists have told us seals are capable of regulating their own reproductive rates without the need for human intervention. Further, scientists have indicated the rate of increase of the grey seal herd has slowed and the population has stabilized.

- Nova Scotia sealers have long blamed the grey seal for the depletion of fish stocks, and their failure to rebound. No credible science exists to support these claims. According to Canadian government scientists, human overfishing led to the collapse of groundfish stocks. Further, human overfishing and destructive commercial fishing practices are preventing groundfish stocks from rebounding. Seals have been scapegoated by the Canadian government which is keen to win east coast votes.

It is important to note DFO scientists state quite clearly there is no evidence that killing seals will aid in fish stock recovery. Notably, leading marine biologists warn against removing large numbers of seals from our oceans, warning such a reduction could have unexpected catastrophic repercussions and could result in the final collapse of fragile groundfish stocks.

-Nova Scotia sealers claim seals destroy fishing gear. However, DFO's own Section Head of Marine Mammal Research stated quite clearly in 2008 there is no nuisance seal problem in Nova Scotia, and expressed concern that nuisance licences were being issued "as if it is a wild cowboy shoot."

There has never been a large market for grey seal products. The skin of grey seals is far less valuable than the skin of other species of seal. The meat is not safe for human consumption and is extremely unpalatable. The governments of Canada and Nova Scotia have spent taxpayers' money attempting to develop markets for grey seal products, all attempts meeting in failure. With a growing list of countries implementing trade bans on seal products, any demand for grey seal skins there may have been have quickly disappeared. Claims of markets eager to purchase the flesh of grey seals is highly suspect, considering the high incidence of brucellosis, an infectious disease that can be transmitted to humans through contact with contaminated products derived from infected animals.

Inhumane and Unmonitored Slaughter

A DFO official in February of 2007 admitted to a Coalition founding member that the annual slaughter of grey seal pups in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia was unregulated, unmonitored and very likely inhumane. For details of that statement, please see the related press release.

DFO does not guarantee that quotas are not exceeded (DFO relies on "hail-ins" from sealers, wherein sealers will call in and tell them how many seals they have killed) and does not consistently monitor the killing ("We don’t look over their shoulders as they work"). It appeared at that time Nova Scotia fishermen were given free reign to kill as many grey seals as they could find and kill them in any manner they saw fit. With the presence of organizations observing and documenting the killing, DFO was forced to tighten up regulations, however, eyewitness reports confirm the killing of grey seals in Nova Scotia remains horrifically cruel.

Despite shrinking markets grey seals remain in peril. Fishermen continue to clamour for a large scale grey seal cull. Government is considering it. Such a cull would involve slaughtering hundreds of thousands of adults, pups and nursing whitecoats in ways so barbaric it is difficult to believe our government is capable of such heinous action.

Appalled? Want to stop it? Please check out this page to find out how you can take action to put an end to this atrocity. Please act with Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition and other organizations across Canada and around the world to protect grey seals.