With the European Parliament preparing to vote on a ban on seal products in April, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans is expecting more media attention for the seal hunt this year.
"I'm expecting just because of political events in Europe — they're looking at a ban of seal products, and we hope that they don't carry through with that, of course — but I'm thinking that we may see more of a European journalistic presence this year than last," Phil Jenkins of media relations for DFO told CBC News Tuesday.
The hunt is expected to open in about two weeks in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.
About 150 licenced sealers from Îles de la Madeleine, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island will take part, with another hunt in April off the east coast of Newfoundland. The quota has not yet been set for this year, but last year it was 275,000 seals.
New observation equipment coming
Jenkins and his colleagues will come to P.E.I. next week to get ready for the protesters and journalists looking for observer permits.
DFO intends to step up surveillance this year, doing more to ensure there's peace on the ice and watching closely to see that the hunt is humane. In addition to the usual coast guard, RCMP and DFO presence there will be new equipment.
"We will have a very high-powered camera mounted on a helicopter to make sure than we can see what's going on perhaps more than last year," said Jenkins.
The vote in the European Parliament is scheduled for April 2, with a final decision on whether to proceed with a ban likely in June.