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Nature News
by Marlene Harris

Spring 2002   —   Bad News for Seals

This year’s seal hunt on Canada’s east coast is reported to be "out of control" according to animal welfare groups.

The Canadian government is allowing sealers to take thousands more seals than the number set as the allowable catch by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Officials with the Department claim the increased number of seals being taken "makes up" for the lower number taken in the past few years and that the total number of seals can support a far higher quota.

The actual numbers are staggering. The 2002 allowable catch is 275,000 (with the total population estimated to be 5 million). But as of the first week of May, over 300,000 had already been killed with a couple of weeks remaining, and in light of Fisheries and Oceans policy of trying to keep details of the annual seal hunt a closely guarded secret, it’s anyone’s guess how many seals will actually be taken.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), one of the major organizations of its kind, states that the government was not going to inform the public or media about its decision. However, they were forced to admit the truth when questioned. IFAW says the hunt is "completely out of control" and accuses the government of ignoring its own quotas.

Government quotas are allegedly set based on the most recent scientific data. Therefore, if the current quota is being so rashly ignored, we can only assume that the scientific community should weigh in heavily on condemning the government’s actions.

It is difficult to understand how such impulsive decisions can be taken. The government’s actions here only serve to show how this supposed "management plan" is nothing more than a case of mismanagement, and the secrecy with which Fisheries and Oceans attempts to surround its actions only degrades the Department further.

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