Animal groups decry seal hunt quota

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Animal welfare goups are outraged after the federal government announced this week a 400,000 pelt quota for this year’s seal hunt, set to begin Monday.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada said its research shows the seal population on the east coast continues to explode, justifying the number.

"The harp seal population is currently estimated at just under 8 million animals. This is almost four times what it was in the 1970s," said department spokeswoman Melanie Carkner.

Animal activists disagree with not only the government’s numbers, but also the approach to exploit what is seen as a dying market.

"Markets for seal products are disappearing, and seals need protection from threats like climate change more than ever, but Canada’s department of fisheries and oceans is ignoring its own scientific advice," said Sheryl Fink of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Last spring, sealers only harvested 38,000 seals, less than 10% of the allowable catch.

The industry has been hit hard in the past few years by the closing of markets in the European Union and most recently Russia.

In 2011, there were approximately 14,000 commercial licences issued to sealers, but only an estimated 5,000 to 7,000 of those were active.