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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 April 2006, 15:24 GMT 16:24 UK
Firm offers $16m to end seal cull
Seal hunters skin harp seals on their boat in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada
Canada says the cull of 325,000 harp seal pups is necessary
A US businesswoman has offered to raise $16m (9m) for Canada to end a controversial seal hunt.

Cathy Kangas, founder and head of PRAI Beauty, wrote an open letter to the prime minister on Wednesday.

But Canada, which says the cull of 325,000 harp seal pups is needed to curb numbers, has declined the offer. The cull got under way last month.

It has provoked an international outcry, with celebrities joining protesters in condemning the hunt.

"Your government has repeatedly stated that the $16m realised from the slaughter of Canadian baby seals is vital to the fishing communities of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence and Newfoundland," Ms Kangas said in her letter.

HARP SEALS
Seal on an ice floe in the Gulf of St Lawrence
Found in north Atlantic and Arctic oceans
Feed on fish and crustaceans and spend much of year at sea
Pups born on the ice and nursed for two weeks, after which their mothers abandon them
Can be legally hunted only once their white coats darken, at about two-weeks-old

"If you stop this year's hunt immediately, we will provide you with this $16m to be distributed at your discretion."

She proposes to raise the money from family, friends and animal protection groups.

But the Canadian government has turned down the offer.

"The short answer is no. We're not interested in the offer and would prefer she put the money in another worthwhile cause," a spokesman for Fisheries Minister Loyola Hearn told the AFP news agency.

While the money would replace some sealers' incomes, it would not come to the overall value of the industry, he said.

Dwindling numbers

The cull, which reportedly earns C$16.5m ($14m, 8.3m) in meat and pelt sales, is an important source of income for fishing communities in Quebec and Newfoundland that have been hit hard by dwindling fish stocks in the Atlantic.

The Canadian government increased the total allowable catch this year, saying the seal population is now almost six million, nearly triple the level of the 1970s.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper said the cull would be carried out humanely and that Canada was the victim of an "international propaganda campaign".

Some 90,000 seal pups are expected to be culled in the Gulf of St Lawrence, before the hunt moves on to Newfoundland, where thousands more will be culled.

But the hunters have been frustrated by a huge fall in the number of seals they have taken in comparison to previous years because of thinning ice caused by warm weather.




SEE ALSO:
Canada 'hindering seal observers'
28 Mar 06 |  Americas
Canada hunters head for seal cull
23 Mar 06 |  Americas
McCartney calls for seal cull ban
03 Mar 06 |  Entertainment
Canada's seal hunt stokes passion
03 Apr 05 |  Americas
Canada seal hunt gets under way
30 Mar 05 |  Americas
Country profile: Canada
07 Feb 06 |  Country profiles


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