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28 March 2007 - Thousands of baby seals already dead as seal hunters gear up for annual hunt      

Thousands of baby seals already dead as seal hunters gear up for annual hunt

Sydney, 28 March 2007                                              
                                                                                                                  

As Canadian seal hunters prepare for the largest marine mammal hunt in the world, likely to begin again this week, latest reports from the ice are showing the brutal annual slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups this year may even be eclipsed by the larger tragedy of global warming, which has seen the seal’s habitat literally melting from underneath them, costing the lives of thousands of newborn harp seal pups before the hunters have even left port.

In an area to the east of the Gulf of St Lawrence, which should have been crowded with an estimated 260,000 seal pups by now, only one was found during a helicopter flyover by HSI observers earlier this week. The rest are thought to have been washed out to the open ocean and drowned because the sea ice upon which they depend formed late in the year and was too thin and weak.

The Satellite images showing solid ice have ended up being broken pans, barely large enough for a single seal. The Canadian government, which provides free flights for the hunters to locate the pups, has spotted more seals further north where conditions are marginally better than in the southern Gulf area. It is therefore likely that the hunting boats may well set off this week for the northern area.

“Right now this season’s seal pups are dying by the thousands and this is before the hunters have even had a chance to get to the ice to inflict their annual bout of cruelty” said Rebecca Keeble, Humane Society International’s Program Manager. 

“The government-supported commercial hunt killed 354,344 seal pups last year, of which 98% were less than 3 months old. This year the spectacular harp seal nursery in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was empty of the 260,000 pups that were expected there and show’s another devastating effect of climate change on the earth’s most vulnerable ecosystems” Ms Keeble said.

With more than one million harp seals killed in the past 3 years in Canada, the commercial seal hunt continues to be the largest slaughter of marine mammals in the world. It is also unimaginably cruel. The pups are killed brutally by a blow to the head with a club, an ice-pick like hakapik or more rarely a bullet. Guns are the least preferred option of the hunters because a bullet hole in the fur lowers its value by a few dollars.

HSI is calling on the Canadian government to bring an immediate end to the seal hunt” Ms Keeble said. “An ecological disaster is unfolding due entirely to the effects of global warming. No responsible government would add to this disaster by sanctioning the killing of any of the surviving seal pups”.

Daily reports from HSI’s team on the ice in Canada can be viewed at www.hsi.org.au





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