Number of Kills in Canadian Seal Hunt Drops

TORONTO (AP) - The global recession, plummeting pelt prices and
the prospect of a European ban on seal products dramatically
lowered the number of seals killed in this year's hunt, Canadian
officials said Thursday.

About 70,000 harp seals were hunted this year out of a
commercial quota of 273,000 animals, said Fisheries and Oceans
Canada spokesman Scott Cantin. The seven-month long hunt ended
earlier this week.

The tally marks a significant drop from last year's hunt, in
which 217,857 harp seals were hunted out of a commercial quota of
275,000.

Frank Pinhorn of the Canadian Sealers Association said many
hunters decided not to take part this year because pelt prices have
fallen to 14 Canadian dollars ($12) from a high of over CA$100
($88) per pelt several years ago.

"Anything under CA$35 ($31) would be low and they won't
participate because they won't recover their costs," he said.

The industry is also carrying about 60,000 pelts from the
previous year in a market that is drying up due to the recession,
the depressed value of the Russian ruble and growing international
distaste for seal products.

Sealers are also grappling with the near certainty that the
European Union will ban imports of seal products, which could take
effect in October.

Animal rights activists, Inuit seal hunters, fur traders and
authorities from Canada and Greenland lobbied hard ahead of the
vote. Activists call the hunt barbaric, while proponents say it
provides crucial jobs and food for villagers in isolated northern
communities.

Canada's East Coast seal hunt is the largest in the world,
killing an average of 300,000 harp seals annually before this
year's drop.

The EU bill targeted the Canadian hunt because of the size of
the annual slaughter and the way seals are killed - either clubbed
or shot with rifles. In the past, they have also been killed with
spiked clubs called hakapiks.

Pinhorn said he believed the drop is only temporary because
people in the industry are hoping to expand the market by using
seal products for different purposes, such as heart valves for
medical procedures or omega-3 products made from seal oil.

"Have we given up on the seal industry? Not a chance," he
said. "The seal industry will come back."

But the director of Humane Society International Canada, Rebecca
Aldworth, said the decline is an indication of the likely end of
the centuries-old tradition.

"We're thrilled by the dramatic decline," she said.

Aldworth said it s the lowest catch in Canada in 14 years and
called it a high point in their campaign to save the seals.


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