Welcome to Canada: A Canadian fisherman kills a baby harp seal by slamming its head on the ice during the 2011 slaughter. Photo: AndyC via piaberrend.org

TORONTO, ONTARIO (IFAW) – Canada's commercial seal hunt opens off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador today, despite a lack of demand for seal products and restrictions on seal products in 34 countries. The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) questions why the Canadian government insists on wasting millions of tax dollars supporting an industry that is clearly obsolete.

"For the second year in a row the commercial seal hunt has required a financial bailout from the Newfoundland government. The reality is that over 15 years of government subsidies, resulting in the waste of tens of millions of dollars, have failed to create a viable sealing industry. This is not some short-term marketing challenge; the fact is that in the 21st century, seal products are unnecessary and, increasingly, unwanted" said Sheryl Fink, Director of IFAW's Seal Campaign.

In 2012, the landed value of the commercial seal hunt was $1.6 million CAD, yet required $2 million in government support in order to proceed. A $3.6 million loan was granted to the sealing industry yet again this year in the face of deep cuts to other industries in Newfoundland and Labrador, including $4 million from tourism and 1200 government jobs.

Although the hunt is opening in the absence of an allowable catch or quota, market demand for seal products remains poor and there may be little interest in this year's hunt from sealers. Although the sealing industry claims there is demand for up to 100,000 seal pelts this year, the price being offered to sealers is expected to only be about $25 per skin. According to observer reports, only 26 boats hailed out on opening day.

"For a government to prioritize financial support to a poorly-paying, increasingly obsolete industry while cutting thousands of jobs in other important areas, just doesn't make economic sense" said Fink. "If the funds currently being used in a futile attempt to keep this dying industry alive were redirected to provide financial alternatives to help sealers to get out of the sealing business, it would be a far better use of taxpayers' dollars" concluded Fink.

The Numbers(i)


  • Number of commercial sealing licenses:                   14,000
  • Number of sealers who participated in 2012              
    commercial seal hunt:                                       763
  • Number of companies who process seals in                                   
    Newfoundland:                                                 1
  • Landed value of seal pelts, meat and oil in 2012: $1.63 million
  • Annual cost for Department of Fisheries and                              
    Oceans to monitor the hunt(ii):                      $1 million
  • Cost to fight the EU ban on seal products at                               
    the WTO(iii):                                       $10 million
  • Cost to tourism, other trade areas and                                     
    Canada's reputation:                         Unknown, but likely significant


(i)Unless otherwise indicated, source is Department of Fisheries and Oceans' 2011-2015 Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for Atlantic Seals

(ii)Estimate based on information received through Access to Information and Privacy (ATIP).

(iii)Estimate based on McCarthy Tetrault trade lawyer Simon Potter, published in the Globe and Mail, 28 July 2009.

About IFAW

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) was established in 1969 and its founding campaign was in opposition to Canada's commercial seal hunt. IFAW has more than 40 years of experience raising awareness, documenting and opposing the cruel commercial hunts for seals in Canada and around the world.

For more information on the campaign read IFAW's blog, visit our website and follow us on YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook.

Canada's Commercial Seal Hunt Opens Despite No Quota, No Demand

Slaughtered harp seals in a Canadian fishing boat. Photo: Frank Loftus / HSUSST. ANTHONY, Newfoundland (HSI) – Humane Society International/Canada is on location to document cruelty at Canada’s commercial seal hunt, which opened in the "Front" (the waters northeast of Newfoundland) half an hour before sunrise on Tuesday, April 9. Fifteen sealing vessels have hailed out to participate in the slaughter in the Front, eight for the Gulf of St. Lawrence, and three boats for an unknown destination.

“This is my 15th year observing the seal slaughter and we are filming the same kind of cruelty we always do. Baby seals are being shot in the face and crying out in agony, wounded seals are being allowed to escape into the water to die slowly, and helpless wounded pups are being beaten to death,” said Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of HSI/Canada. “The Canadian government wants the world to believe everything has changed, but the seals are suffering as much as always.”

Last month, the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador provided $3.6 million in financing so that sealers could be paid to kill seals despite a lack of global markets for seal products. Fisheries Minister Kieth Ashfield has not yet announced the Total Allowable Catch for seals in 2013.

Earlier this year, Taiwan passed a historic ban on the trade in marine mammal products, including Canadian seal products. The European Union, Russia, the United States and other nations have also implemented prohibitions on the trade in seal products.

With global markets for seal products closing fast, HSI/Canada calls on the Canadian and provincial governments to support a federal buyout of the commercial sealing industry, which would involve ending the seal hunt, providing immediate compensation for sealers, and investing in economic alternatives in the communities involved.

Broadcast-quality video and stills of the 2013 commercial seal slaughter will be available.


  • National polling consistently shows the overwhelming majority of Canadians want the commercial seal slaughter to end, and oppose the Canadian government's using tax dollars to promote the sealing industry.
  • 2010 Ipsos Reid polling shows that 50 percent of Newfoundland sealers holding an opinion support a federal sealing industry buyout, a plan in which sealers would be compensated for their licenses and funds invested in economic alternatives in the communities involved.
  • Harp seals are the primary target of the east coast commercial seal hunt.
  • As ice-dependent animals, seals rely on the sea ice to give birth to and nurse their pups. In recent years, sea ice cover has declined significantly off Canada’s east coast, and very high seal pup mortality has been recorded in key seal whelping areas.
  • Government landings reports confirm that more than 98 percent of seals killed in Canada’s annual slaughter are less than three months old.
  • Veterinary reports consistently reveal high levels of animal suffering in commercial sealing, and a 2013 veterinary study concluded bans on seal product trade are justified on ethical grounds.
  • A leading Canadian government scientist has publicly called for a reduction in the harp seal quota of at least 100,000 to address the impacts of climate change on ice-dependent harp seals in recent years.
  • Independent scientists warn that reckless kill levels authorized by the Canadian government, paired with the impacts of climate change on the ice dependent harp seals, poses a serious ecological threat to the survival of harp seal populations.
  • Sealers are commercial fishermen who, on average, earn less than five percent of their annual incomes from sealing; the remainder comes from seafood such as crab, shrimp and lobster.


Media Contact: Dean Pogas, HSI/Canada: 514.261.6007/514.395.2914; dpogas@hsi.org

Humane Society International/Canada is a leading force for animal protection, with active programs in companion animals, wildlife and habitat protection, marine mammal preservation, farm animal welfare and animals in research. HSI/Canada is proud to be a part of Humane Society International which, together with its partners, constitutes one of the world’s largest animal protection organizations. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide – on the Web at hsicanada.ca

Taxpayer-Subsidized Seal Hunt Begins off Canada’s East Coast


  1. gail zawacki said...

    amazing tornados starting at 20 minutes in, and then ohhhhh the poor little lambs...


  2. Anonymous said...

    Canada has a horrible track record on environmental and wildlife concerns.

    As eco-terrorists, they top the list of the world's worst offenders.

    They should be sanctioned like we do other terrorist countries, funds seized, the flow of goods and supplies stopped.

    We can do without their dirty oil.  


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