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WWF Defends Pro Sealing Stance:

One of our website visitors is a former supporter of the WWF. This supporter halted his monthly donations to the World Wildlife Fund due to their pro sealing stance. After halting his donations he sent the WWF an email requesting more information. Below is the response he received from the WWF. Our responses are in bold..

'As you know, WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the planet's natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature. Often, as is the case in the Grand Banks, cultural, historical, economic and environmental issues need to be taken into account. WWF's approach is designed to ensure that coastal communities play a significant role in, and benefit economically from, the restoration of ocean resources.'

There is no doubt that living in harmony with nature is of the utmost importance. But maybe WWF should redefine the word harmony. We do not believe that wiping out a huge percentage of a wild population is harmonious. It is possible to live in harmony with the ocean and its treasures without bloodying that same ocean.

'WWF recognizes that the hunting of the harp seal (Phoca groenlandica) is part of the local economy, culture and traditional heritage in many coastal communities in Atlantic Canada and other parts of the world. In contrast to many populations of whales, cod and other species that are in dramatic decline in Canada, the harp seal is found in record high numbers (over five million individuals), so that the current hunt poses no apparent threat to the long-term health of this species. '

When Europeans initially landed on Canadian shores there was an estimated 30 million seals.  The current seal population is at 20% of the original number. If you wait until a species in endangered to protect it than you risk its long term health. A healthy population size equals a larger genetic pool. Genetic diversity is advantageous to fighting off predators and disease. The 5 million figure is also overstated and unproven. 

'We understand that many people around the world feel strongly about the suffering of the individual seals killed in the hunt and we share this concern. To inform the ethical debate on the annual seal hunt, WWF promoted the establishment of an independent expert panel of veterinarians to assess the treatment of harp seals during the course of the hunt, including the manner in which seals are hunted. The veterinarians report has been presented to the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and its key recommendations are being acted upon by DFO management and have been favourably received by industry. The panel will continue to be active in promoting humane hunting methods.'

The most humane method is to avoid hunting unless it is absolutely necessary.  The current hunt is a massacre and the seals are used exclusively for the fashion industry and for non-essential items like 'seal oil capsules'. The veterinarian reports have all but been ignored.

'The current hunt cannot be opposed on the basis of species conservation; however, as part of our ongoing work in the Northwest Atlantic region, WWF will continue to promote an ecosystem-based management approach that takes into account the marine environment and the roles of species, including the harp seal. An important component of this work will include reducing the ecological footprint of nations fishing in the Grand Banks. Effectively managing the activity of fishing fleets, both in and outside Canadian waters, is central to securing the long-term sustainability of coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador. '

While it is important to reduce the ecological footprint of fishing vessels, this does not address the matter at hand. What is the point of protecting the food source of the seals if you allow the seals themselves to be butchered? By indiscriminately killing seals the numbers of whales, and fish is also being affected, as the web of life is interconnected. You cant attack one population without affecting another.

'We are convinced that strong conservation achievements for marine habitat and life can have lasting economic benefits in this historically overexploited region, provided best practices for sustainable resource management, species and habitat protection, as well as ecological restoration, are applied.'

We agree entirely with this statement. This is why eco-tourism should be explored as an alternative to the hunt. 


After reading the above Karin (Last name withheld for privacy) who frequents this website contacted the WWF for more information. Below is the email that the WWF sent Karin:

'Dear Karin,

Thank you very much for your email and for your support of WWF. We appreciate the opportunity you have given us to address your concerns.

Some of the inquiries we receive are based on a misunderstanding of who we are and what we do. WWF is not an animal rights group, a humane society nor an animal welfare organization.

WWF is a global conservation organization with a mission to stop the degradation of the planet’s natural environment and to build a future in which people live in harmony with nature. To achieve this mission and to ensure lasting success, conservation efforts must take into account cultural diversity as well as historical and economic realities. WWF recognizes that local communities play a significant role in, and benefit economically from, the sustainable use of natural resources.

WWF's approach is to unite individuals, organizations, and governments behind pragmatic, science-based approaches to conservation. I've attached WWF's Advocacy with Excellence principles which detail how we carry out our mission. In addition, I also suggest referring to our 2006 Annual Report at wwf.ca in the "About Us" section. It highlights our conservation achievements and finances throughout the past year. We take great pride in accomplishing results by taking solutions-oriented action to conservation issues, and we are proud of our track record in this respect.

With regards to your specific comment:

For over 40 years the Canadian harp seal (Phoca groenlandica) hunt has been controversial. Many people have strong objections to the commercial harvesting of wildlife, and of marine mammals in particular. Animal welfare organizations both inside and outside Canada continue to press for improvement of humane hunting methods and tighter monitoring, while some oppose the seal hunt altogether. In the past, largely due to considerable international pressure, several measures were taken that affected the Canadian seal hunt. In 1972, the United States prohibited the import of seal products under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In 1987, the Canadian government prohibited the hunting of harp seal pups, at the “whitecoat” stage. More recently, there has been a movement to impose a trading ban of seal products altogether particularly within the European Union.

The long history of controversy reflects both the diversity of individual values and the diversity of cultural and national experiences with wildlife and wildlife harvesting. WWF respects this range of diversity. As well, WWF recognizes that hunting seals is an important part of the local economy, culture and heritage of many coastal communities in Atlantic Canada, the Arctic, many other maritime nations.

Most importantly, from the perspective of a conservation organization such as ours, the harp seal population is at a near record high with more than 5 million individuals and current harvest practices pose no apparent threat to the long-term health of the species.

While there are no conservation grounds on which to end the seal hunt at this time, vigilant monitoring of the impacts of hunting and environmental conditions will be important. Climate change may affect the availability of sea ice, which plays an essential role in the birth and weaning of harp seal pups. WWF will continue to work on an ecosystem-based management approach in the Northwest Atlantic Ecoregion that will take into account the overall health of the marine environment and the role of all species, including harp seals. Furthermore, WWF has launched a global campaign to reduce the effects of climate change, which poses a major threat to all Arctic species and others that depend on sea ice.

An important component of WWF’s work in the region includes reducing the ecological footprint of nations fishing on the Grand Banks. This means reducing bycatch and habitat impacts of all fisheries and ensuring all quotas are sustainable, including those in high seas areas adjacent to Canadian waters. These are critically important changes in order to secure the recovery of this overexploited ecosystem. It is also key to securing the long-term sustainability of coastal communities in Newfoundland and Labrador as well as those European communities that historically have benefited from the region’s marine bounty.

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to set the record straight. While no single view will seem right to everyone, WWF remains true to its fundamental conservation mission. Our efforts have produced more than 40 years of results, from pulling species back from the brink of extinction, to safeguarding countless wild places that will now provide beauty and sustenance for generations to come.

I hope our efforts are worthy of your continued support. Should you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,
Leanne
'

Karin sent such a well written response that we have posted it here for your benefit.

'Dear Leanne: Thank you for your candor. However, I find it morally wrong to kill anything just for its fur. I find it even worse if the killing is performed in an inhumane manner, which is the case in the Canadian slaughter of the seals. Here I am relying not on information published by the Canadian Government, but by a panel of independent veterinarians who have observed the hunt and estimated that over 40% of the seals are still alive when skinned (see http://www.ifaw.org/ifaw/dfiles/file_95.pdf). Also, it sounds like your assessment of the economic need for the seal hunt is based on data provided by the Canadian Government. Other sources show that these approximately 4000 hunters draw less than 5% of their annual income from the hunt (see http://hsus.org/marine_mammals/protect_seals/the_truth.html).

In terms of the population numbers you cite, look at the facts. Canada allowed the number of harp seals to drop to 1.8 million in the early 1970s. Now they claim that a "healthy" population of 5.2 million exists but in the same breath admit that they have not had a peer-reviewed population survey since 1999. As to the numbers you quote, it sounds again as if you are relying on numbers provided by the Canadian Government. Scientists and environmentalists dispute the Canadian government's population claims, and believe the hunt is a threat to the survival of the species. In the last four years alone, over a million harp seals have been killed (http://www.tierschutzbund.de/00727.html).

It greatly bothers me that you seem to rely on "facts" published by the Canadian Government to support your case. It also bothers me that you do support this hunt. Therefore, I cannot agree with you and the goals of your organization. I will ask WWF in the US to remove my name from your mailing list.

Thank you,

Karin'

 

 

 

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