An annual quota to kill thousands of pinnipeds, seals and sea lions, is being proposed by a group of commercial, sport fishers, trappers,and First Nations called the Pacific Balance Pinniped Society (PBPS). We are trying to stop this inhumane, unscientific, and profit driven mass killing before it starts.
We recently obtained an inside document of the PBPS which outlines their entire strategy. In this document they indicate they plan on killing 50,000 pinnipeds initially to severely reduce their numbers and then start an annual harvest killing several thousand each year.
What is even more startling is the brutal and inhumane methods they will be using to kill these seals and sea lions. The document describes killing them by “clubbing,” shooting with rifles,” and harpooning with cross-bows. These methods will cause extreme suffering to the animals and have the potential for a high rate of failure leaving many animals to suffer and die from their injuries.
Why is this happening?
PBPS has been trying to convince the public and the government that there is an overpopulation of pinnipeds in the Salish Sea which are compromising the recovery of the Southern Resident Killer Whale (SRKW) population. They argue that the pinnipeds are eating too many juvenile chinook salmon which the SRKWs eat once they have matured.
However, the true reason for their proposal is that they want to create a market for seal and sea lion meat, oil, and skin on the west coast of Canada. There is evidence they are sending samples from 30 seals, killed by First Nations, to the Canadian Food Inspection Agency to test and see if it is safe for human and animal consumption.
Their plan is to initially reduce the population by killing half in what they call a “derby”, approximately 100,000 down to 50,000 individuals. After that they plan to have a regular “harvest” where they will kill approximately 3000-5000 pinnipeds per year.
Their primary methods of killing these animals is by clubbing, shooting with rifles and shotguns, and with harpoons from cross-bows.
Is there evidence to support the need to reduce pinniped numbers?
No. This is a classic bait and switch by the fishing industry to try and blame other wildlife for the decline of the SRKW population, while trying to create a new industry through the seal slaughter.
Seals were hunted relentlessly by the fishing industry, who see them as competition, in decades past until their numbers were down to only about 10,000. At that point the government stepped in to protect them. Their population has recovered and has been stable for 20 years. There is no evidence to support over-population in this context.
Furthermore, transient killer whale populations eat seals and reducing their numbers significantly could have adverse effects on this population. Also, only about 4% of a seals diet is juvenile chinook salmon with the rest being primarily hake and herring. Hake are a major salmon smolt predator, so killing seals could increase the population of hake and further decrease the chinook salmon population.
No matter how you cut it, killing seals to save salmon or killer whales is just bad science.
The Bottom Line
Killing one group of animals to protect another that are suffering due to anthropogenic causes is unethical, bad public policy, and could have significant negative consequences on other species and their ecosystem.
However, there is substantial evidence to support that we need to protect the Southern Resident Killer Whale population by decreasing commercial and recreational marine traffic in their environment, place a moratorium on chinook salmon fisheries, and create protected areas for them to live without human interference.
We cannot allow profit-driven industry dictate irresponsible wildlife management policy to our federal government. That is why we are calling on the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Jonathan Wilkinson, to stop this seal slaughter before it starts — do not endorse the killing of seals and sea lions.
How You Can Help
You can sign our petition opposing the proposal to kill thousands of pinnipeds here.
You can donate to help us win this fight for the seals and sea lions under attack here.