Management Principles

The commercial seal hunt is managed using sound conservation principles and a “precautionary” approach:

“The precautionary approach requires acting with caution in the absence of certain, reliable, or adequate scientific information, with the objective that the population remains above a pre-established scientific reference point.”

Population assessments are reviewed regularly in collaboration with Department of Fisheries and Oceans scientists, as well as academic researchers, non-governmental organizations and, in some cases, hunters and/or industry. Counts are done every few years; there is a regular seal sample collection program that has allowed DFO to collect samples from harvesters to produce one of the best libraries of seal information in the world; and regular fly-overs of breeding or whelping grounds are completed.

Climate change is already having an impact on sea ice behaviour—there is less ice, it is less stable, and it forms later and may be melting earlier. Changing ice conditions will have a substantial impact on seals that give birth on sea ice or pack ice.

Since 2007, the federal government has closely assessed seal harvest quotas to take into account this new and uncertain factor for populations. The government has stated that any increased ice-related mortality will be taken into consideration when determining upcoming seal quotas.