10 Reasons to Support Canada's Seal Harvest
"We have to be logical. We have to aim our activity first to the endangered species. Those who are moved by the plight of the harp seal could also be moved by the plight of the pig - the way they are slaughtered is horrible." Jacques Cousteau (Wenzel, 1991).
Harp Seals Are Full-Use Animals
Harp seals are a full-use animal:
- Pelts: used for clothing, tents, kayaks and rope
- Meat: high in protein and nutrients
- Blubber: rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids (EPA, DHA and DPA)
- Heart Valves: could save or improve lives as they are "superior to any other bioprosthetic valve tested before." Dr. Efstathios-Andreas Agathos, Cambridge, MA (Agathos, 2000)
Seal Harvest History
Seals have been harvested in Canada for centuries for pelts, blubber, oil and meat. Native populations in arctic regions have been harvesting seals and consuming considerable amounts of marine mammal oils (seal oil and whale oil) containing omega-3 essential fatty acids like eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) in their traditional diet. Population studies have indicated that various Inuit groups including those living in Greenland and in northern Quebec (Nunavik) have a lower prevalence of cardiovascular disease-related mortality (Dyerberg and Bang, 1979) (Dewailly, et al., 2001), which can be attributed to their traditional diet rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids.
Canada's Seal Harvest Today
Canada's commercial seal harvest is the most closely watched and strictly regulated animal harvest in the world. Fisheries and Oceans Canada monitors the harvest on land, sea and air to ensure strict management. Sealers must be trained and licensed to ensure seals are harvested in a humane manner. An independent study published by the Canadian Veterinary Journal in 2002 found that 98% of seals are harvested in a humane manner (Daoust, et al., 2002). Sealers who do not adhere to the humane harvest policies are heavily fined and often prohibited from participating in the harvest (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Link).
There are six species of seals harvested in Canada's north Atlantic region, but harp seals account for nearly all seals harvested. Harp seals are not endangered. The population of harp seals is abundant and growing with an approximate total of 9 million seals (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Link). It is illegal to harvest whitecoat (baby seal) in Canada. Only seals that have reached the age of self sufficiency are harvested (Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Link).
Fisheries and Oceans Canada sets a total allowable catch (TAC), which is the upper limit of what can be harvested commercially in any given year. The TAC is determined each year based on population sustainability, scientific advice and industry consultation. The harp seal population is sustainable and has grown in size by roughly four times since the 1970s.
Agathos EA, Human cardiac valve placement with marine mammal ventricular outflow (aortic or pulmonary) valve. U.S. Patent Number 6,165,216. December 26, 2000.
Daoust PV, et al., Animal welfare and the harp seal hunt in Atlantic Canada. Canadian Veterinary Journal, 43(9): 687-694, 2002.
Dewailly, et al. n-3 Fatty acids and cardiovascular disease risk factors among the Inuit of Nunavik. Am. J. Clin. Nutr., 74:464-473, 2001.
Dyerberg J, and Bang H.O., Haemostatic function and platelet polyunsaturated fatty acids in Eskimos. Lancet, 2: 433-435, 1979.
(Fisheries and Oceans Canada, link - http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/seal-phoque/seal_hunt-chasse_phoque-eng.htm).
(Fisheries and Oceans Canada, link - http://www.dfo-mpo.gc.ca/fm-gp/seal-phoque/reports-rapports/facts-faits/facts-faits_tl-eng.htm).
Wenzel GW. Animal Rights, human rights: ecology, economy, and ideology in the Canadian Arctic. University of Toronto Press: 47, 1991.