Annual Canadian seal cull underway

sealpup_011104

Canada’s controversial annual seal hunt opened Monday in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, where the worst ice conditions in more than two decades have nearly wiped out the herd.

There were so few seals that only two of 40 eligible boats took part in the hunt’s first day, fisheries officials said.

Newborn seals cannot swim in the first weeks of life and need solid ice to survive, but the ice in the area is broken and deteriorated, a trend officials have seen in the last four or five years.

“The bad ice contributed to a high rate of drowning,” Fisheries Department spokesman Phil Jenkins said. “The mortality from bad ice is going to be fairly high.”

The hunt is key to the livelihood of Canadian fishermen and aboriginal peoples. To protect the seal population in Canada