Even in mid-March, when this picture was taken, ice suitable for birthing in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence was sparse. (Mike Hammill/DFO)

A lack of ice in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence prevented a significant seal hunt this year, say Department of Fisheries and Oceans officials.

In the past week, only four boats — from the Îles-de-la-Madeleine — have gone out for the hunt, Alain Belle-Isle, communications manager for the department, told CBC News on Monday.

"There was a total of just a little over 1,200 seals taken to date," Belle-Isle said. "But activity in the gulf is winding down now with the disappearance of the ice and with it the seal populations.

"As we understand it, as of Monday morning, there is one vessel that is still active but we expect that the activity is going to wind down over the next few days."

Belle-Isle said the total allowable catch for the southern gulf this year was set at 105,000 animals. The lack of ice made for an unusual year for the hunt, he said.