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Canada's East Coast seal hunt opens quietly

  Environmental  -   POSTED: 2007/04/02 15:51

Canada's controversial annual seal hunt opened Monday in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the worst ice conditions in more than two decades have nearly wiped out the herd.

Fisheries officials said they expect only a few boats from the Maritime provinces will take part in the first phase of the centuries-old hunt. About 40 boats from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island are eligible, with most of the early hunting focused on the Cape Breton coast, said Fisheries Department spokesman Roger Simon.

"There are a few seals scattered from Sydney towards Canso but they are very sparse and the ice is broken and deteriorated," he said.

"What seals were in that area may be swimming back north and we know a higher proportion drowned this year. The bad ice contributed to a high rate of drowning," Fisheries Department spokesman Phil Jenkins said. "The mortality from bad ice is going to be fairly high."

The hunt is key to the livelihood of Canadian fishermen and aboriginal peoples. To protect the seal population in Canada — which now stands at about 5.5 million - fisheries officials announced a sharp reduction in the number that can be killed.


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