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Sustainability & Ecosystem Balance

The annual seal harvest contributes to marine biodiversity protection.

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Sustainability & Ecosystem Balance

Overall, Canada’s seal populations are healthy and increasing. In fact, harp and grey seals are so abundant there are concerns about over-population. Large seal populations have had negative pressures on fish stocks upon which they feed, including several commercially important fisheries. A well-managed seal harvest is key to maintaining seal populations at levels that allow fish populations to rebound while providing economic benefits to remote coastal communities.

Abundant Populations

The latest estimates for seal populations found in Canada:


Total Allowable Catch 2020


Quick Facts

In recent years, the Total Allowable Catches determined by scientists and set by the Canadian Government have not been fulfilled, primarily due to the loss of local and international markets for seal products.


Estimated size of the Harp, Grey and Ringed seal herd off Atlantic Canada


Harp seal and grey seal Total Allowable Catches for the 2020 hunt.

< 10%

The percentage of the 460,000 seal quota that was harvested in 2019. In 2019 a total of 32,199 harps seals and 1,232 Grey seals were harvested.  Fisheries and Oceans Canada Report.  

Overabundant Populations

  • The harp seal population is estimated at over 7.4 Million.
  • The Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans estimates the average adult seal eats 1.5-2 tons of fish per year. The Sustainable Management of Grey Seal Populations: A Path Toward the Recovery if Cod and Other Groundfish Stocks, Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Fisheries and Oceans, Oct. 2012
  • This equates to millions of tons of fish and seafood consumed by seals each year.
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CSP_INFOGRAPHIE_Harp Seal Population
Changes in the Northwest Atlantic harp seal population and predicted changes under different model assumptions and an annual harvest of 325,000 animals. The dotted lines are the 95% confidence intervals for the exponential growth model.

Benefits to the Fishing Industry

Harp seals alone eat over 18 times more fish than the entire Atlantic Canadian fishing fleet’s annual seafood harvest. Atlantic Coast Commercial Landings of fish and seafood. Department of Fisheries and Oceans. total Atlantic Coast Commercial Landings in 2018 was less than 610,000 tons. It is estimated that seals eat over 1.5 tons of fish per year. 7.4 harp seals x 1.5 tons = 11 Million tons / 610,000 tons = 18 times.

The 2019 hunt alone saved our fishery $250 million in fish resources that would otherwise be consumed by seals. Approximately 32,000 harp seals were harvest in 2019. It is estimated that seals eat over 1.5 tons of fish per year. The value per tons of fish was at $5,200 in 2018. Source: 32,000 seals x 1.5 tons x $5,200 = $CAD 250 MILLION.

If the full quota was harvested, that value would be CAD$3.12 Billion. The annual quota is 400,0000 for harp seals. It is estimated that seals eat over 1.5 tons of fish per year. The value per tons of fish was at $5,200 in 2018. Source 400,000 seals x 1.5 tons x $5,200 = $CAD 3.12 BILLION.

CSP_INFOGRAPHIE_Benefits to the Fishing Industry
Based on data from several studies using traditional methods, a single adult grey seal can eat up to 2 tonnes of prey per year. Cod can represent up to 50% of this diet. This represents an estimated 500,000 tonnes of cod per year. In comparison, Atlantic Canada’s commercial cod catch was estimated at, only 11,000 tonnes.

“Harp and Grey seals are part of the LIST of the 40 marine species that are valued by “Smarter Seafood” eco-guide, created to enable the sustainable development of the St. Lawrence.”

It’s time for #SealFact!

  • There are 33 species of seal worldwide: 7 frequent Canadian waters, and none of these Canadian species are endangered.
  • Seals have up to 1,500 nerve endings in each super-sensitive whisker (a cat or rat has about 200) which are important to help seal detect food.
  • Seals may swim up to 40 km/hour and usually dive to a maximum depth of 200 meters.
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Culture & Livelihood

Sealing is a vital activity for ten of thousands of rural Canadians throughout the country. Seal hunt sustains northern and coastal communities nutritionally, culturally and economically.

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Humane & Professional

Canada’s world-leading animal welfare standards, codes of practice, training and licensing programs ensure human harvesting and the highest quality products.

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Many national and international conservation organizations have expressed their support of seal harvesting in Canada.

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