New Seal Slaughter
Over the years, grisly images of hunters clubbing defenseless baby seals for their pelts have moved thousands to protest the Canadian seal hunt. This resulted in tighter regulation by the Canadian government, and, most recently, a ban by Russia--until recently the largest market for seal pelts--on the import and export of harp seal skins.
Today sealers with clubs are replaced by a more fearsome but less photogenic force: climate change. According to a new article in the journal PLoS ONE, declining sea ice in the North Atlantic is leading to a dramatic plunge in harp seal numbers. “Entire year classes may be disappearing from the population in low ice years” says lead author David Johnston of Duke University. “Essentially all of the pups die.” Lack of sea ice may have killed as many as 80 percent of the seal pups born in 2011--a far greater slaughter than sealers ever wrought.
Image by IFAW