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Hunting   Seal hunt North Pole   
Seal hunter, IFAW

Seal hunt in the North Pole region

Harp and hooded seals are hunted in Norway, Canada, Greenland and Russia. For years now, the governments have been giving permission to hunt a limited number of young seals in the northern Arctic Sea. They say that the seals are the reason why the fish stock is declining, so by killing the pups, the population will decline. However according to seal experts, killing a relatively small number of young animals has no regulating effect. The real reason for killing particularly young animals is that the fur from young harp and hooded seal yields more than from an adult.

  • Hatapik

    The traditional tool for seal hunters is the ice pick, better known by its Norwegian name hatapik. A hammer head is situated on one side at the end of a long shaft, with a sharp hook on the other side. The hammer head is used to strike the seal skull. A skilled hunter kills the animal with one blow. The hook is used to dragged the body across the ice.

  • Traditions

    The original inhabitants of the Arctic region, such as the Canadian and Greenland Inuit, hunt seals because they form a necessary source of materials for them (leather and fur). The Inuit communities are thinly distributed in this region where millions of seals live, so that this traditional manner of seal hunting doesn't form a threat to the population.
    However, a new tradition began a few centuries ago. West-Europeans sailed with large ships to the polar region and performed massive hunting parties using firearms. Their purpose was to fill their ship with expensive skins. Supporters of the seal hunt often appeal to this new tradition (now with the snowmobile variation), although this has little to do with a respectful relationship with nature.

  • Lobby and results

    Up till 1976, newly born seal pups were hunted massively. These pups have a white fur, which gets a very good price at the market. After actions from Greenpeace and other organizations between 1976 and 1983, hunting harp and hooded seals in Canada was reduced. Importing furs from the young seals was forbidden in Europe and the USA, whereby the fur market crashed and the value of the sealskins was almost worthless. However, in Russia, the situation hasn't changed much...

  • Norway

    The hunting season in Norway is from March till April 15. Professional seal hunters undergo strict training. The manner in which the seals must be killed is specifically described. Every ship is required to have a veterinarian on board for monitoring compliance with the rules.
    The quotum in 2010 was established at 30,000 seals. Four thousand seals were shot by professional hunters from one ship. During its heyday, dozens of these ships would depart from the northern Norwegian harbors to hunt seals. This shows that the seal hunt in Norway is dying out. Because the Norwegain quotum can never be filled anymore by the professional hunters, tourists with a hunting license have been allowed to participated since 2005.

  • Canada

    Between 1983 and 1995, an average of 52,000 seals were killed in Canada, much less than prior to actions from environmentalists. However, the cod fisheries then collapsed in Canadian waters. People in favor of hunting seals proclaimed that the seals were no longer held in check. This led to a renewed public acceptation of commercial hunting. The Canadian government finds hunting seals justifiable because the population of harped seals is now 5.8 million animals, twice as many as in the 1970s. In 2010, the yearly quotum was established at 330,000 seals. White coats, newly born seals, are not allowed to be killed. The pups lose their highly desired white coat after two weeks and are then free to be hunted.