Sydney Morning Herald Online
by Michel Comte
A lack of sea ice in one of the warmest Canadian winters on record and a European boycott have ruined what was to be a banner seal hunt off Canada’s Atlantic coast this month, according to officials and sealers.
Canada’s Fisheries Minister Gail Shea last month increased by 50,000 the allowable catch of harp seals this season to 330,000, in defiance of a ban on seal products by the European Union.
But most of Canada’s 6,000 sealers stayed home, unable to find buyers for their catch or stymied by a lack of ice floes for the first time in 60 years on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence, which usually host hordes of seals birthing pups.
“The European boycott was devastating to the industry this year, as was the lack of ice on the Gulf of Saint Lawrence due to an exceptionally warm winter,” Jean Richard, Canadian fisheries department conservation chief for the Quebec coastal region, told AFP.
“The hunt, as a result of reduced market demand, has been scaled back substantially,” added Larry Yetman, fisheries resource management officer for the Newfoundland and Labrador coastal region.