Is commercial sealing in Canada sustainable?


Yes, without doubt. Not only is Canada’s commercial seal hunt sustainable, quotas could actually be increased significantly without harming seal stocks.

Canada is home to six species of seal – harp, grey, ringed, harbour, hooded and bearded – whose populations are all healthy and growing. Their combined numbers are thought to exceed 10 million.

Commercial sealers harvest harp seals in the Northwest Atlantic, home to the world’s largest stock estimated at 7.4 million ( Today this harp seal stock is thought to be three times what it was in the 1970s, and some scientists believe it is more numerous now than at any time in history.

Meanwhile, fisheries managers are also concerned by the growth of the western Atlantic stock of grey seals. Until a few decades ago, this stock was largely confined to Atlantic Canada, but now its range is expanding southwards to areas where it was formerly extirpated, and it is already numerous in New England. The Canadian population is estimated at 505,000

So while commercial sealing in Canada is undeniably sustainable, management of seal stocks has been controversial. The fishing industry insists that growing seal stocks are inevitably hurting the recovery of commercial fish stocks on which the seals feed, and want to see an increase in sealing quotas. However, the federal government’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans continues to urge caution in setting sealing quotas, while expressing doubt that seals are hurting fish stocks.

For further reading see Why seal populations must be managed
Canadian Seal Products, Oct. 27, 2021.

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