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Seal hunting, or sealing, is the personal or commercial hunting of seals. Seal hunting is currently practiced in eight countries and one region of Denmark: Canada, the United States, Namibia, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Finland, Sweden, and Greenland. Most of the world's seal hunting takes place in Canada and Greenland. Canada's largest market for seals is Norway.
The Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) regulates the seal hunt in Canada. It sets quotas (total allowable catch – TAC), monitors the hunt, studies the seal population, works with the Canadian Sealers' Association to train sealers on new regulations, and promotes sealing through its website and spokespeople. The DFO set harvest quotas of over 90,000 seals in 2007; 275,000 in 2008; 280,000 in 2009; and 330,000 in 2010. The actual kills in recent years have been less than the quotas: 82,800 in 2007; 217,800 in 2008; 72,400 in 2009; and 67,000 in 2010.
In 2007, Norway claimed that 29,000 harp seals were killed, Russia claimed that 5,479 seals were killed, and Greenland claimed that 90,000 seals were killed in their respective seal hunts.
Harp seal populations in the northwest Atlantic declined to approximately 2 million in the late 1960s as a result of Canada's annual kill rates, which averaged to over 291,000 from 1952 to 1970. Conservationists demanded reduced rates of killing and stronger regulations to avert the extinction of the harp seal. An endangered seal is the Mediterranean monk seal. In 1971, the Canadian government responded by instituting a quota system. The system was competitive, with each boat catching as many seals as it could before the hunt closed, which the Department of Fisheries and Oceans did when they knew that year's quota had been reached. Because it was thought that the competitive element might cause sealers to cut corners, new regulations were introduced that limited the catch to 400 seals per day, and 2000 per boat total. A 2007 population survey conducted by the DFO estimated the population at 5.5 million.
It is illegal in Canada to hunt newborn harp seals (whitecoats) and young hooded seals (bluebacks). When the seal pups begin to molt their downy white fur at the age of 12–14 days, they are called "ragged-jacket" and can be commercially hunted. After molting, the seals are called "beaters", named for the way they beat the water with their flippers. The hunt remains highly controversial, attracting significant media coverage and protests each year. Images from past hunts have become iconic symbols for conservation, animal welfare, and animal rights advocates. In 2009, Russia banned the hunting of harp seals less than one year old.Read more...