Seal hunters have not suddenly found a new love for these cute fuzzy little baby seals. No for the second year in a row the seals have escaped being clubbed only to drown because of a lack of ice. Global warming it seems is doing the job that seal hunters no longer can.
This particular species really prefers ice” over land, Hammill said.
After being born, the white-furred pups nurse for 12 to 14 days. Then the mother leaves and the pups are weaned.
These juveniles moult during the next two weeks, trading their snow-white coats for silver ones flecked with small dark spots along each side.
Poor ice conditions mean more pups may die, while less food could be available for those being weaned.
The pups can’t swim very well and they tire quickly, Hammill pointed out.
“They are little butterballs of fat that pop around like wine corks,” he said. “They will drown. They need the ice to rest.”
Ted Miller of Memorial University in Saint Johns, Newfoundland, added that “the seals are absolutely ice dependent, and their numbers will get hammered if it goes down.”
Officials say they expect high mortality among pups this year. Some groups are even estimating that close to 100 percent of the pups will succumb due to fragile ice. (via)
The Canadian government has announced the total allowable catch (TAC) of 270,000 harp seals during the 2007 commercial seal hunt. The announcement has drawn sharp criticism from conservationists worldwide including researchers with IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare), who worry that repeated failure by Canadian officials to properly manage the harp seal hunt as this yearâ€™s TAC continues to put the population at increased risk of depletion.
In recent years, the government has set the yearly TAC around 300,000 animals, a number well above the sustainable levels estimated by its own scientists. This year, despite poor ice conditions that could result in 100% natural seal pup mortality, the government is continuing to ignore the scientific evidence provided by its own scientists by setting the TAC at 270,000 animals.
â€œUnfortunately, the Canadian government continues to put politics ahead of science by refusing to adopt a precautionary approach when managing the seal hunt,â€ said IFAW Senior Researcher Sheryl Fink. â€œGiven the lack of seals due to very high natural mortality this year, it’s incredibly disappointing that the Canadian government is moving forward with the hunt â€“ and a hunt for as many as 270,000 seals.â€œ
â€œGlobal warming is seriously jeopardizing the habitat of ice-breeding marine mammals such as harp seals,â€ said Dr. David Lavigne, world-renowned pinniped expert and IFAW Science Advisor. â€œAny decision to continue with Canadaâ€™s seal hunt must take into account the increased seal mortality caused by global warming,â€ he added.
Canadaâ€™s commercial seal hunt is the worldâ€™s largest hunt for marine mammals today. Just last year, when government scientists estimated the sustainable yield to be 250,000 harp seals, the TAC was set at 335,000 and the landed catch exceeded 354,000 animals. Of those, 98% were pups under the age of three months.
While Harp seal popluations are large, the one two punch of over hunting and global warming will quickly lead to the same sort of conditions seen in north Atlantic fishing. The seal hunters will soon be putting themselves out of a job if they continue to improperly manage the seal population. In fact the seal hunters should be on the front lines fighting for stronger government action to address the problems of global warming.