Nfld. & Labrador

N.L. harp seal hunt set to begin

The harp seal hunt north of Newfoundland and Labrador is scheduled to begin Thursday with the quota increased by 50,000 animals to a total of 330,000.

The harp seal hunt north of Newfoundland and Labrador is scheduled to begin Thursday with the quota increased by 50,000 animals to a total of 330,000.

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea has said the population of harp seals is about 6.9 million — more than triple what it was in the 1970s.

The Fisheries Department is opening the annual hunt in six designated sealing areas after little ice formed this year in areas of the ocean where millions of seals normally gather to give birth to pups.

In early April, there was some ice in the Straits area between Newfoundland's Northern Peninsula and southern Labrador, and farther north off the coast of Labrador.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans' total allowable seal catch of 388,200 includes 50,000 grey seals and 8,200 hooded seals.

The harp seal quota this year includes an allocation of 20,000 to support three projects proposed by the sealing industry that the department says aim to make the fullest possible use of the hunted animals.

As in the past, about 70 per cent of the quota is allocated to fishermen working in the waters northeast of Newfoundland and Labrador, while the Gulf of St. Lawrence gets the rest.

There have been numerous reports in Atlantic Canada of seals giving birth to pups near shore this year because warm weather has left the Gulf of St. Lawrence largely devoid of ice.