PEI

Weather making seal hunt difficult: DFO

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says high winds and a lack of ice are making the annual harp seal hunt difficult so far.
Poor ice conditions have forced many seals to give birth on land. This pup was on the beach at Tignish Shore. (submitted by Darlene Morrissey)

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says high winds and a lack of ice are making the annual harp seal hunt difficult so far.

"With the storms that have blown through over the last few days and the high winds, a lot of the ice is dispersing quite rapidly," said Alain Belle-Isle, a spokesman for the department.

"The seals are moving around quite a bit."

The hunt began Sunday at 6 a.m. for all sealers from the Gulf, Maritimes and the Magdalen Islands, but the department said only one boat from the Magdalen Islands reported plans to take part in the hunt on Monday.

Belle-Isle said four observer permits have been issued so far and the department does not want a large number of observers overwhelming a small number of sealers.

"We do try to treat every request and try to accommodate everyone but given the low level of sealing activity there may be a need to restrict the number of observers that can be allowed out at one time," he said.

There will be three buffer zones around the coast of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island during the harp seal hunt, with most of the activity likely taking place between North Cape, P.E.I. and Miscou Island, N.B.

The Northwest Atlantic harp seal population is estimated at nine million animals, more than four times what it was in the 1970s. In 2010, 67,327 harp seals were harvested.