A Few Words on Seals and Sealing
My grandmother owned a full length shiny black sealskin coat. I know this because it was passed down to me in the 70’s. Luxuriously soft and silky, I wore it for awhile during my hippie days, and don’t remember now, how I felt then, about the fact that the pelts were stripped from the body of some beautiful marine mammals, perhaps while they were still alive. I was a most unenlightened hippie.
Harp seals can be commercially hunted once they are 12-14 days old--at this point they molt their downy white newborn fur and are abandoned by their mothers. The killing of whitecoats and bluebacks (newborns) has been banned since 1987. Most sealing is done on The Front, the ice flows east of Newfoundland, during March and April (though the season is open from mid-November to mid-May). According to Liberation BC the total allowable catch for 2012 was 400,000.
Kill methods are also regulated by DFO--seals can only be dispatched using high-powered rifles, shotguns firing slugs, clubs or hakapiks--a heavy club with hammer head and metal hook on the end. As brutal as this sounds, the hakapik (a Norwegian harvesting weapon) seems the most humane method as the seal’s skull is crushed with a quick blow to the forehead. This means the seal is not bled or skinned alive. Hunters are supposed to render the animal unconscious, check that it is dead, and then cut the main artery to bleed the seal out--it's meant to be quick.
I am so grateful to have had this time to share this rock with these Harbour Seals. They are beautiful creatures, so vital and curious, and I will miss them when I'm gone, but take comfort in the fact that they will remain.
I have no idea whatever happened to my grandmother's coat, and though I see the many sides of sealing, personally, the only seal hunting I will ever do is with my camera.