Canada’s commercial seal hunt is not monitored, regulated or humane, says Canadian Fisheries official.

March 2, 2007 – Last week, a Department of Fisheries and Oceans official admitted that the commercial seal hunt is not well-regulated, closely monitored or humane.

Department of Fisheries and Oceans Detachment Supervisor, Arthur A. LeBlanc, Chéticamp, Cape Breton, Nova Scotia told Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition founder, Bridget Curran, that sealers are not required to have a dockside monitor count their pelts and that one is never present during the hunt in Western Cape Breton.

This statement was made after Curran called the RCMP to report that there was no monitor at the docks in Port Hood during the opening day of the 2007 grey seal hunt, which began on February 19th, and that the sealers had taken the pelts to the home of a local sealer.

LeBlanc phoned Curran to explain that except for a few random spot checks, his detachment of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) accepts the word of the sealers as to how many seals they have killed.

He noted that all the sealers needed to do was “hail in”.

LeBlanc explained that sealers hail in when they phone in the number of seal pelts to the DFO. This is how they determine that the sealers have reached quota.

“So basically you can’t guarantee that they’re not going over-quota and killing too many seals,” Curran charged.

“We don’t look over their shoulders as they work,” LeBlanc told Curran.

"This is highly contradictory to the public message of the DFO,” says Karen Levenson, Program Director of the Animal Alliance of Canada anti-seal hunt campaign. “The DFO has always maintained that the seal hunt is well-regulated and well-monitored. Hailing in is no way to closely monitor and regulate the seal hunt. There’s no guarantee that the sealers are being honest, nor does it allow for all the seals that are struck and lost.”

It is estimated that thousands of wounded seals manage to escape under the ice, where they succumb to their injuries and drown. These seals, however, are not counted as part of the quota.

“Is the DFO telling us that they have one message for the public and another for the sealers?” asked Levenson.

Levenson confirmed with LeBlanc that his statements to Curran were accurate, and that he, in fact, did not know how often spot checks were done.

LeBlanc also admitted that because his detachment only does spot-checks on pelts at dockside, and doesn’t regularly monitor the sealers during the hunt, they actually had no idea whether or not the seals were being killed humanely.

“This confirms what animal protection groups have said all along. We now have proof from the DFO itself that the seal hunts are not well-monitored, regulated or humane,” said Levenson. “The only acceptable way of handling any commercial seal hunt is to end it now and provide sealers with a license buy-back program.”

The Canadian government has successfully implemented many license buy-back (also known as license retirement) programs in the wake of fisheries closures. In these programs, the government buys back fishing licenses from fishermen, compensating them for lost revenue resulting from fishery closures. A sealing license buy-back program would fairly compensate fishermen (who hunt seals in the off season) affected by the permanent closure of the commercial seal hunt.

The federal government has failed to consider such a program.


For more information, call:

Bridget Curran, Atlantic Canadian Anti-Sealing Coalition, 902-473-9080

Liz White, Executive Director, Animal Alliance of Canada, 416, 462-9541