The standardized three-step method for the humane killing of seals, outlined in Methods, was included in the conditions of License for the Canadian harp seal hunt in spring 2009, the same year it became entrenched in the Marine Mammal Regulations of Canada’s federal government.
This method was developed in accordance with recommendations from the Independent Veterinarians Working Group, consisting of veterinarians from Canada, the United States, France, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. Consultations were also held with industry and provincial and territorial governments.
Sealers must choose their prey carefully. It is against the law to kill a whitecoat (harp seal or grey seal pup) or blueback (hooded seal pup). At the whitecoat or blueback stage, pups are nursing and dependent on their mother for food and protection.
When nursing finishes—depending on the species, this may be several days or several weeks after birth—the mother leaves her pup for good. The young seal begins to moult, grow its adult coat, and swim and hunt for itself. Only seals at this self-reliant independent stage may be harvested.
Blueback hooded seals cannot be hunted until 2 to 3 years of age, when they shed their blue-coloured coat.
No adult seal may be hunted in whelping or breeding patches. The virtually eliminates the chances of killing a pregnant or nursing cow.
All seal harvesters must hold a licence, whether for personal or commercial use. Personal licences, which usually allow the holder to harvest up to six seals, are available to residents adjacent to the designated seal harvest areas.
The Department of Fisheries and Oceans announced in 2014 that Humane Harvesting training, consisting of a 2-hour workshop, would be mandatory for all holders of commercial seal licences. Commercial sealers who did not complete the training by November 30, 2016, would not have been permitted to renew their licences.
Learn More About The Harvest
“From an animal welfare perspective, the intense focus on the Canadian seal hunt is perplexing. … [C]onsiderations for animal welfare and standards of practice in other hunts are similar to, or less than, those currently required during the Canadian seal hunt.”
—Pierre-Yves Daoust et al, “A review of animal welfare implications of the Canadian commercial seal hunt: A critique,” Marine Policy (2013).