"Despite Few Hunters, Seal Pups Face Threats"

"OTTAWA — The annual hunt for harp seals off the coast of eastern Canada  will barely take place this year. But this is not good news for the seals.

An exceptionally mild winter in the usually frigid Gulf of St. Lawrence has combined with several related factors to discourage Canadian hunters from pursuing the seal pups, whose pelts are prized by the fur industry. The grim spectacle of pups being bludgeoned on the ice by hunters has long been cited by animal rights activists seeking to curtail the annual hunt.

The same phenomenon that is behind the decision of most seal hunters to keep their boats in harbors this spring — the warm weather that left the waters off the coast largely ice-free — also threatens the young harp seals. Harp seals make ice their main habitat, and they give birth on ice, partly as protection from predators on land."

Ian Austen reports for the New York Times April 1, 2010.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010