The Harp seal can be found in both coastal waters or on pack ice, from the Gulf of St. Lawrence and across the Arctic to Siberia.


The harp seal and humans

Threats to the harp seal.

Just 150 years ago there were 9-10 million harp seals in Arctic waters. Numbers shrank to around three million, because pups were killed in vast numbers by fishermen and hunters, who claimed that the seals were depleting fish stocks. The skins from the pups were sold to the fur trade and made into coats and other clothing.

Fishermen estimate that each seal consumes about $5.75 worth of fish every day. With a population of around 5 million seals, that's nearly $10.5 billion per year, so it's easy to see why fishermen regard seals as enemies. Indeed, Newfoundland's cod fishermen have been banned from fishing for cod since 1992, but then their overexploitation of the cod stocks didn't help the falling cod population either.

It's clear that there will be a problem with harp seals and humans coexisting in the same environment. Seals are (in the eyes of the fishermen) denying men their livelihoods, and if the seal population became too large, there would not be enough fish even to feed the seals, let alone serve the needs of fishermen. Issues are complex, and there are several sides to the argument.

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