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Things Animal Rights Activists Say: Seal Hunt Edition

24 April 2023
Seal harvest

Every year, at this time of the year, animal rights activists take advantage of the sealing season to spread misinformation throughout the media about the Canadian Seal Hunt.


While animal rights activists represent an extremely small fraction of the Canadian population, they are aggressive, strategic, and unfortunately can be effective at making consumers doubtful about the seal hunt based on misinformation about sustainability, animal welfare standards and other key topics.


It is important for animal activists, as well as anyone else, to do their due diligence and fact-check their information before sharing it with others. Misinformation can harm the coastal communities and the seals themselves by promoting ineffective or harmful solutions to problems.

Below is a list of the top 6 wrong information about seal hunt spread by animal rights groups:

#1: The hunt is endangering the seal populations.

Out of the 33 species[1] of seals found worldwide, 6 of them can be found in Canada and none are endangered.[2] [3]  In fact, Canada’s total seal population is estimated at more than 10 MILLION – the largest number ever observed by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans:


  • Harp Seal: 7.6 million[4][5]
  • Grey Seal: 366,400 [6]
  • Hooded Seal: 593,000 [7] [8]
  • Ringed Seal: 2.3 million[9]
  • Bearded Seal: 500,000 to 1 millionacross the Arctic [10]
  • Harbour Seal: 100,000British Columbia and 25,000 Atlantic Canada [11] [12] [13]

If we include these 6 species, this represents a total of approximately 11.5 Million seals found off the Atlantic coast of Canada and in the Arctic.

#2: Seal hunt is unsustainable and will decimate the seal population.

One of the more prominent seal species found in Canadian waters is the harp seal, with a population that’s grown nearly 60% to 7.6 million since 1994.[14] [15] In 2020, the Government of Canada’s total allowable catch limit for the harp was only 5% of its population. And in recent years, the total number of catches only reached 10%, a fraction of that annual quota.

#3 There is no proof that seal populations have an impact on fish stocks.

Our oceans have a lot of seals, and seals eat a lot too – the total Canadian seal population eats roughly 30 million tons of fish each year. That’s 53x more fish than the entire Canadian Atlantic fishing fleet catches![16] Learn more

The annual seal harvest is an integral part of responsible marine ecosystem management. In keeping a balanced relationship between seals and fish, sealing provides opportunity for sustainable growth of small scale, community based, commercial fisheries.


As recent closures of commercial fishing for herring and mackerel demonstrate, fish populations (including lobster and crab) are vulnerable.[17] Several scientific studies demonstrate that seals represent a major cause of mortality for different fish species. Here are a just few:


This is why in May 2022, the Atlantic Seal Science Task Team (ASSTT) published a Report as a direct response to the concerns raised by commercial fish harvesters in Eastern Canada about the impact seal predation on fish stocks.


Following the Seal Summit in November 2022, the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans launched an open call for project proposals to improve our understanding of the role of seals in the ecosystem as a priority under the Ecosystems and Oceans Science Contribution Framework. Successful applicants will be notified in the near future.

#4 Seal hunt is barbaric and inhumane.

Canadian harvesting practices are among the best in the world. They are guided by rigorous animal welfare principles that are internationally recognized by independent observers.[18]


Professional sealers are required by law to be trained in the three-step process humane killing of seals.[19] Quality/Health/Handling training workshops are also mandatory for commercial sealers. A Code of practice, developed in consultation with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency, focuses on the quality assurance which is necessary for export certification of seal meat and oil.[20]


Many national and international conservation organizations have expressed their support of seal harvesting in Canada. Their recognition highlights the sustainability and value of this carefully managed and regulated hunt.


  • The federal government, through Fisheries and Oceans Canada, unequivocally supports the seal harvest and world market access for its products. [21]
  • World Wildlife Fund (WWF) Canada, one of the world’s leading conservation organizations, is closely monitoring the seal hunt, and is satisfied with the associated practices, as well as the health of harp seal numbers. CLICK HERE to download WWF position statement on seal hunt.
  • Smarter Seafood(Fourchette Bleue) publishes a list of St. Lawrence less known marine species that are nutritious and sustainable. Smarter Seafood follows the guidance of marine researchers and biologists in compiling its list. Both harp seal and grey seal are on Smarter Seafood’s list:

  • On a global level, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the go-to source for the up-to-date conservation status of animal, plant, and fungi species. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists both harp seal [22]and grey seal [23] as species of Least Concern.
  • Similarly, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) does not list or put any restrictions on trade relating to harp seal, grey seal, ringed seal or harbour seal. CLICK HERE to download the letter from CITES Canada certifying that seal species harvested in Canada are not listed in any of the CITES appendices.

#5 Seal hunt is not an economically viable industry.

Canada has long been the world’s largest exporter of seal products, including pelts, oil and meat. In addition, the consumption of sustainable, natural, organic, Omega-3 oils and meat improves human health, while the textiles are an ecofriendly alternative to non-renewable (plastic) clothing.

Seals are a valuable natural resource that provides income to between 5,000 and 6,000 individuals and their families in remote towns and villages at a time of year when few other economic opportunities exist.[24] Seals are also an important source of food — and a focus of social and cultural life – for Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities throughout Atlantic Canada, Quebec, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories.


In 2007, Newfoundland and Labrador estimated that the sealing industry was worth approximately $55 million to the provincial economy.[25] Canadian seal landing values[26] peaked in 2006, with meat and pelt values exceeding $30 million. At that time, sealers have stated that their income from sealing could represent from 25% to 35% of their total income.[27]


Seal has been a significant component of Inuit livelihoods throughout history. It was and is a means for Inuit to provide food for their families and community and more recently allow hunters and women to participate in the cash economy. A study conducted in Nunavut in 2012 estimated that there were over 40,000 seals harvested per year in Nunavut and that the replacement food value of seal meat was worth approximately $5 million. At the time, seal skin products were worth an additional $1 million to the arts and crafts sector of the Nunavut economy.[28]


The impact of trade restrictions on the Canadian seal industry has been very serious. They have severely suppressed the market, reducing prices and sales volumes, and profits across the industry.  Landed values saw a significant decline in subsequent years (from approximately 300,000 pelts in 2006 to around 30,000[29] seals in 2021)[30] due to international trade bans.  According to federal statistics, the number of sealers license has plunged in Newfoundland to 4,180 in 2019 from 11,146 in 2009.[31]

For more information, please contact:

Romy Vaugeois, Program Manager at Seals & Sealing Network:

Seals & Sealing Network

The Seals & Sealing Network (SSN) aims to provide an informed, solutions-oriented and science-based national voice regarding the seal hunt. SSN brings together Canada’s sealing industry harvesters, processors, manufacturers, retailers, and Indigenous peoples of Canada to promote and market high quality and sustainable Canadian Seal Products (seal oil, seal meat, seal fur) through our Canadian Seal Products and Proudly Indigenous Crafts & Designs brands.

Associated links:


[1] List of Pinnipeds. Britanica.

[2] Identify a Species. Department of Fisheries and Oceans. March 2018.

[3] NOTE: Six species of seals – the harp, hooded, grey, ringed, bearded and harbour – are found off the Atlantic coast of Canada, although ringed and bearded seals are typically Arctic species. However, some science include the Northern Elephant seal specie in British Columbia increasing the number to 7 species of Phocidae. If we include Otariidae, Phocidae and Odobenidae, there are a total of 11 species present in Canadian waters: Northern Fur Seal, Northern Sea Lion, California Sea Lion, Hooded Seal, Bearded Seal, Grey Seal, Northern Elephant Seal, Harp Seal, Harbor Seal, Ringed Seal and Walrus.

[4] Science Advisory Report 2020/020, Department of Fisheries and Oceans. Government of Canada. Science Advisory Report 2020/020 (

[5] IUCN Redlist, specie of least concern. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

[6]Stock assessment of Northwest Atlantic grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) in Canada in 2021

[7] A Discussion of the Precautionary Approach and its Application to Atlantic Seals (

[8] SSC-OP-055.pdf (

[9] Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida): COSEWIC assessment and status report 2019 –

[10] Bearded Seal – NAMMCO

[11] Are There Too Many Harbor Seals in British Columbia? | Hakai Magazine

[12] SAR-AS2009_011_E (

[13] Harbour seal (

[14] Fisheries and Oceans Canada. Science Advisory Report 2020. 2019 Status of Northwest Atlantic Harp Seals, Pagophilus groenlandicus. 2020-03-26 Science Advisory Report 2020/020 (

[15] Department of Fisheries and Oceans. 2011-2015 Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for Atlantic Seals. 2011-2015 Integrated Fisheries Management Plan for Atlantic Seals (




[19] Ensuring the seal harvest is humane (

[20] Code of Practice for the Harvest, Transport, Processing, and Export of Seal Products Intended for Human Consumption – Exporting food, plants, or animals – Canadian Food Inspection Agency (

[21] The importance of the seal harvest (

[22] Pagophilus groenlandicus (Harp Seal) (

[23] IUCN Red List of Threatened Species

[24] Government Response – 8512-391-224 – House of Commons of Canada (

[25] Government Congratulates Carino Company on 50th Anniversary

[26] Seal landings are defined as the catches of seal pelts and meat landed in domestic ports. The value of seal landings are subject to changes in market demand and prices.

[27] Government Congratulates Carino Company on 50th Anniversary


[29] Numbers taken from article: Seal Oil Hopefuls Buy Exclusive Ticket to China, 18 Nov 2022


[31] Deer Lake Regional Meeting Presentation, January 2020: Number of Seal License NL region