Wherever sealing takes place in the world, it is in the form of a managed hunt or cull. Regulations govern how seals can be hunted, who can hunt them, and how many can be taken.
Quotas are set in consultation with biologists and wildlife managers, applying a "precautionary approach" to ensure populations remain healthy and in balance with the ecosystems in which they live. Since adult seals typically eat between 1 and 1.4 tonnes of fish annually, the challenge of maintaining a balanced marine ecosystem has only increased as most seal populations continue to grow as commercial fish stocks fall.
Without such sustainable harvests, seal herds are controlled by starvation - often an indicator of overpopulation - and disease, both of which involve considerably more suffering than a controlled harvest.
Responsible sustainable use practices can actually improve the health and welfare of animal populations, while benefiting the communities that are dependent on coastal and marine wildlife.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN), the largest and most respected conservation organization in the world (bringing together 82 States, 111 government agencies, more than 800 NGOs, and over 10,000 scientists) supports the sustainable use of seals and other wildlife, as long as this is from abundant populations.
"The Congress also urges IUCN members to put their sustainable use principles into action by not introducing new legislation that bans the importation and commercialization of seal products from abundant seal populations." Resolution passed at the 3rd IUCN World Conservation Congress, November 2004.
Aqqaluk Lynge, Inuit Circumpolar Conference president
Addressing the UN Commission for Sustainable Development
Our aim is to preserve the best of the old as we adopt the best of the new. ... The surest guarantee of long-term environmental protection and sustainable development in the Arctic is to have Inuit on the land, hunting, fishing, trapping, and gathering - taking care of our homeland.
Monte Hummel, President, WWF Canada
Statement to members of the Dutch public
As long as the commercial hunt for harp seals off the coast of Canada is of no threat to the population of over 5 million harp seals, there is no reason for WWF Canada to reconsider its current priorities and actively oppose the annual harvest of harp seals.
Tom Hughes, Executive Vice-President of the Ontario Federation of Humane Societies
We believe that the Atlantic harp seal herd is now not only stable, but probably growing. The simple fact is that there is no possible chance that the animal is in any danger of extinction, and it's ridiculous for anyone to suggest that it is in danger. My personal concern, at this time is that the herd might grow too much.