(Guelph, Canada) - An almost total absence of ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence is sounding alarm bells with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org).
According to Environment Canada data, such a severe lack of ice has not been observed in eastern Canada in the past 30 years. IFAW experts are warning that the profound shortage of breeding habitat will have a lethal effect on harp seals.
“We are extremely concerned,” said Sheryl Fink, IFAW Senior Researcher. “Historically this is the week when harp seals begin to give birth to their pups in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. Without ice, many mothers will be forced to abort their pups in the water.”
Data from Environment Canada show that ice coverage in Eastern Canada during February has been below average for the past 16 years.
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“The increase in the number of below-average ice years we have experienced recently is startling, and the cumulative effects of several bad-ice years on the harp seal population are likely to be significant. Unfortunately, these effects may not appear in the government’s population surveys until it is too late,” said Fink
“We’ve always called for an end to Canada’s commercial seal hunt on the basis that it is inhumane and unnecessary. But if the end is brought about by climate change, habitat loss, and the premature death of seal pups, it will be no reason to celebrate,” Fink concluded.