Harp seals are part of our eco system and are major predators on fish and crustaceans. In turn they are hunted by man and have been since the days of the Aboriginal (Inuit and Indian) occupation of these islands. That hunt continued when Europeans first landed here and continues today. For Aboriginals in time past and for inhabitants of the islands today it was/is a part of their economic survival.
Given the nature of the eco system of the islands hunting and fishing has always been a part of the survival of society, whether that society be Aboriginal or, later, European.
What applies to the Magdellan Islands also applies, for both Aboriginal and European settlements, on the Quebec North Shore, the island of Newfoundland, the coast of Labrador and throughout the communities of Canada’s north from Nunavut to the Yukon Territories.
The modern seal hunt in the Magdellan Islands (and throughout the aforementioned sealing communities) operates under a strict licensing system designed to ensure that all hunters are educated in the proper killing techniques, proper handling of meat and skin products, and that they adhere to the quotas established by the Government of Canada. The Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans sets all seal quotas based upon scientific studies of populations and thus the sustainable yield these populations can accept. In other words, the quotas are designed to ensure the stability of the various seal populations in our waters. The seal populations vary by species. For Harp seals the latest studies indicate a population of about 9 million animals and this population has more than quadrupled under the hunting management regime of the Government of Canada.
The vast majority, well over 95%, of seals killed in Canada are killed by rifle with the exception being the use of a certified club (hakapic) in areas where the use of rifles is deemed to be dangerous to the hunters. Licensing regulations require sealers to check the seal following the rifle shot (or club strike) to ensure that death was instant and in the rare time it was not to then crush the skull. Having made the check the sealers must then cut the main artery and bleed the seal out. These are the same techniques used by abattoirs throughout Western Society.Our sealers (like sealers throughout Canada) utilise seals for food - meat, pelt - fur and leather clothing, fat - industrial and medicinal (Omega 3) oils. In addition to the traditional products some doctors have been developing medical uses for seals heart valves and other parts of the seal's anatomy. Some of these products we use directly and others we sell to provide an income for our families.
** See the harp seal population