It looks like this year’s East Coast grey seal hunt season might have already fizzled out due to a lack of markets.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada set February 28 as the official opening date, but Robert Courtenay, a spokesperson for Cape Breton sealers, told the Cape Breton Post on opening day: "We had to call everything off, so it doesn’t look good. I don’t think there will be anything going."
Courtenay said one buyer wanted a few hundred grey seals but couldn’t wait the necessary amount of time to deal with regulatory arrangements and paperwork.
In a release, Michelle Cliffe, Canadian spokesperson for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said: "We are relieved that…the grey seal hunt for 2013 will not proceed. This is the second year in a row that lack of domestic and global demand for seal products has resulted in no hunt, clearly showing that the sealing industry is dying."
Cliffe also stated that it appears that an unrelated proposed grey-seal cull on Sable Island is "off the table".
Last year, only about eight grey seals died in the Gulf of St. Lawrence during a hunt that normally has a quota of more than 1,000 of the marine mammals. No animals were killed in 2012 on Cape Breton’s rocky Hay Island, a major killing ground for the seal hunters. Hay Island is off Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and is part of the protected Scaterie Island Wilderness Area.
Courtenay told CBC News in March 2012: "Some years we have taken up to 1,500 animals out of that area."
In January, Taiwan banned all marine-mammal products. At the time, that country was the world’s fourth-largest consumer of such goods. A Canada-China trade agreement that would allow export of edible seal products has not been ratified. In a January 2012 statement released prior to his China trip, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said: "Our government will continue to vigorously defend this humane and highly regulated [seal] industry and to seek new international markets for Canadian seal products, including China."
Previously, the European Union, the United States, Mexico, and the Russian Federation have banned seal products.
According to the Humane Society International, Canadian seal processors admitted in 2010 that they have hundreds of thousands of seal furs stockpiled because they are unable to find buyers.