TORONTO — Canada's annual seal hunt got under way Thursday despite a dwindling market for pelts and other byproducts following a European Union import ban and slumping demand.
Nelson Kalil, manager of communications at the Fisheries and Oceans Canada department, said about 30 to 40 boats are expected to head to Newfoundland and Labrador's northern tip to participate in this season's seal hunt, the world's largest.
The department has increased this year's seal hunt quota by 50,000 animals to a total of 330,000 because hunting restrictions have resulted in a rising seal herd population, estimated at 6.9 million -- more than triple what it was in the 1970s.
However, Frank Pinhorn, executive director of the Canadian Sealers Assn., said sealers will take a fraction of the annual quota because only one of the four regular purchasers is buying harp pelts this year.
"We expect 20-25 percent of the quota will be harvested so they'll probably bring in 50,000 to 60,000 out of the 330,000 quota," Pinhorn told The Associated Press.