It may be legal

Published: Sunday 28 February 1999

... but is it sustainable? The Canadian government has once again set its usual quota for killing seals in 1999 after rejecting evidence suggesting that the country's annual harp seal cull is unsustainable. In 1999, like in the past two years, Canadian seal hunters will be allowed to kill as many as 275,000 animals. This is well within the "replacement yield" of 286,700 suggested by a 1994 population census. Canadian minister for fisheries and oceans David Anderson explained what this means to the seal population: "The herd will not be threatened by this year's harvest." But David Lavigne, director of the International Marine Mammal Association, Canada, thinks otherwise. Lavigne says that when those seals that were shot but whose bodies were not retrieved are taken into account, the numbers go up to 420,000 and 550,000 dead seals in each of the past two years. "The government has said earlier that its objective is a stable seal population," Lavigne says. "My analysis shows that it is not achieving its objective for the past two years."

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