|Activists staged the beating of a Canadian Embassy employee outside the Mexico City embassy in opposition to the seal hunt. (Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP/Getty Images)|
Environmentalists rap Canadian seal hunt
Population at risk rights groups warn
TORONTO -- Canada announced yesterday that hunters can kill 270,000 harp seals this spring, despite environmentalists' protests that thousands of pups too young to swim have fallen through ice thinned by global warming, jeopardizing the stability of the population.
Animal rights groups worldwide condemned the hunt as inhumane.
The traditional spring hunt is key to the livelihood of Canadian seal hunters and aboriginal peoples. To protect Canada's seal population -- which stands at about 5.5 million -- fisheries officials announced a sharp reduction in the number that can be killed, down from last year's quota of 335,000 animals.
"These decisions are guided by principles of conservation," Loyola Hearn, minister of fisheries and oceans, said in a statement. "I also want to ensure that the people who depend on this resource for their livelihood will benefit from it over the long term."
Hearn acknowledged the thin ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, where animal rights groups have complained that pups unable to swim are dying by the thousands. He said that 20 percent of the hunt takes place in the gulf, and that ice conditions in the Northern Gulf and off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador remain good.
There was no announcement of the opening date of the hunt, which has been getting later each year due to the thinning ice and a lack of pups. The hunt opened on March 26 last year.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Humane Society of the United States condemned the new hunting quota.