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Last Updated: Wednesday, 30 March, 2005, 07:50 GMT 08:50 UK
Canada seal hunt gets under way
Seal hunt
Images from the seal hunt have caused outrage among activists
Fishermen in Canada have begun what is expected to be one of the biggest seal-hunting seasons in decades.

The hunters returned to the ice floes after the government gave the go-ahead for more than 300,000 seals to be killed this year.

Authorities say the hunt is now more humane and that the rising seal population needs to be controlled.

As in previous years, animal rights groups are campaigning against the hunt, which they say is cruel.

The activists also say Canada is trying to appease fishing communities for political reasons.

The fishermen blame the seals for the devastation of Canada's fish stocks and have pressed for a renewed culling.

The two-month hunt takes place on ice floes off the Atlantic coast, where the seals give birth.

Earlier this month, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans said in a statement that Canada's seal population was healthy and abundant.

"The harp seal herd - the most important seal herd for this industry - is estimated at around five million animals, nearly the highest level ever recorded, and almost triple what it was in the 1970s."

Boycott

Large-scale hunting will be allowed to continue until the number falls to under four million.

One official told the AFP news agency: "We have to do our job responsibly. We are looking at the middle ground, taking into account conservation and the economic needs of the region."

But anti-hunt activists, who claim many animals are skinned alive and die in agony, say they will press ahead with a boycott of Canadian seafood.

"I think that [the Canadian government] are feeling the heat... they can see the really serious implication of going ahead with the hunt this year," said Pat Ragan, of the Humane Society of the United States.

"We're going to be encouraging consumers to enter into dialogue with their grocery stores and their restaurants and say, 'Please don't serve Canadian seafood', or, 'I won't buy Canadian seafood until this hunt is over'," she told Reuters news agency.

The seal hunt in Newfoundland and Labrador went into decline some 25 years ago, after images of hunters clubbing infant seals horrified TV viewers across the world.



SEE ALSO:
Canada completes main seal cull
14 Apr 04 |  Americas
Canada seal hunt draws protests
13 Apr 04 |  Americas


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