Ice reports and forecasts indicate that there is a very high likelihood that there will be insufficient ice for the whelping of the harp seals in the Gulf of St. Lawrence this year. Ice conditions this poor have never been seen before in recorded history. The last time conditions approached what we are seeing now at this time of year was in 1969.
The year 1981, was the third lowest ice year in recorded history.
In 1981, some harp seal mothers, who normally whelp only on ice, went to the shores of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia and gave birth on land. That year, due to the lack of ice, hundreds of thousands of seal pups drowned. The seals who were born on land faced both natural dangers, like death by exposure, and the danger of death at the hands of thousands of sealers, both licensed and unlicensed, who took this rare “opportunity” to walk right up to a baby seal and kill it. Some of these seals were also attacked by domestic dogs.
Those who witnessed this remarkable event (including Stephen Best of Environment Voters, and Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd Conservation Society) reported horrors and atrocities that make even the annual seal “hunt” on ice look like a picnic.