Nova Scotia

N.S. seal hunters to test small-calibre bullets

Nova Scotia fishermen will test an alternative method for killing seals as part of the hunt set to start Thursday.

Hunt to begin off Cape Breton

Robert Courtney will testing small-calibre bullets during the upcoming seal hunt. ((CBC))
Nova Scotia fishermen will test an alternative method for killing seals as part of the hunt set to start Thursday.

Sealers will use small-calibre ammunition that should cause the immediate death of seals and eliminate the risk of ricochet for sealer safety.

Robert Courtney of Cape Breton will be testing the ammunition to kill about 100 seals in this year's hunt on Hay Island, off the eastern coast of Cape Breton. 

"The animal-rights people have been saying they have a problem with us using bats and hakapiks," Courtney said Wednesday. "This is one of the things we're trying to do appease those people."  

A wildlife pathologist at the Atlantic Veterinary College in Charlottetown is researching whether small-calibre bullets should be used to kill grey seals instead of a hakapik or club.

Pierre-Yves Daoust said Monday that small-calibre bullets that fragment on impact might be a better way to kill the seals instantly. He undertook a small pilot study last year involving about a dozen seals.

Courtney is one of two sealers given a special licence to use the ammunition in the Cape Breton hunt.

Courtney holds small-calibre bullets that will be used to shoot seals. ((CBC))
There are about 25 sealers aboard Courtney's boat, along with two veterinarians who will analyze whether the small-calibre bullet is humane and safe. It's only a test, so clubs and hakapiks will still be used.

In another development, this season the entire seal carcass will be processed.

"The animal-rights people have been asking for it for years — asking for full utilization. Now we are there. The market is open and that's our intention to fully utilize the whole animal," Courtney said.

Licence buy-back proposed

Anti-sealing activists hope to stop the seal hunt and want the government to buy back commercial sealing licences. 

"That kind of a program would pay sealers for their licences for retiring them and put money into viable economic alternatives in the communities most involved," said Rebecca Elsworth of the Humane Society International Canada.

As sealers prepared their boats and gear for the hunt, Caleb Briand said he hopes he can make enough money to feed his family.

"I have two kids at home and my wife doesn't work, so we badly need it," Briand said.

The sealers plan to hunt over the next two days and take about 1,500 seals.