Seal Pups Saved from Slaughter but Killed by Climate Change

A lack of ice flows in Canada's Gulf of St. Lawrence is suspected to have caused the deaths of thousands of harp seal pups. Mother seals require the ice flows to give birth and nurse their pups, but surveillance flights over the region by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) have found the area seriously lacking in both seals and ice.

"There is wide open water and almost no seals," says senior researcher Sheryl Fink, who has been surveying the region for six years. "I only saw a handful of adult harp seals and even fewer pups, where normally we should be seeing thousands and thousands of seals."

Not the first time seal pups dying before the cull

Seventy-five percent of seal pups born in 2002 died before the seal hunt began, due to a lack of ice. IFAW scientists say the conditions this year appear to be worse still and some are predicting a mortality rate close to 100 percent for the estimated 260,000 seals born in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

Canadian officials acknowledged the high seal pup mortality this year, but only dropped the hunt quota by 30,000 to 270,000 since the area is such a "small piece" of the hunt.

As opponents to the seal hunt point out, the growing threat to seals from global warming and weak ice shouldn't be compounded by a cull that barely drops its quota. Almost anyone who's seen the cruelty knows it shouldn't be happening at all. Even if the southern Gulf accounts for only 20 percent of the catch, wiping out all the seals there and not caring because they can be found elsewhere isn't 'sustainable'. Will they do the same when increased global warming causes seal pup numbers fall in other areas too?
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