Catch history of ringed seals (Phoca hispida) in Canada
Keywords:ringed seals, Phoca hispida, Canada, catch history, sealing
The ringed seal (Phoca hispida) has always been a staple in the diet and household economy of Inuit in Canada. The present paper was prepared at the request of the NAMMCO Scientific Committee to support their assessment of ringed seal stocks in the North Atlantic Basin and adjacent arctic and subarctic waters. Specifically, our objective was to evaluate recent and current levels of use of ringed seals by Canadian Inuit. Annual removals probably were highest (possibly greater than 100,000) in the 1960s and 1970s, a period when sealskin prices were particularly strong. Catches declined substantially in the 1980s following a collapse in sealskin prices, presumably related to the European trade ban on skins from newborn harp and hooded seals (Phoca groenlandica and Cystophora cristata, respectively). Recent catch levels throughout Canada (1980s and early 1990s) are believed to be in the order of 50,000 to 65,000 ringed seals, with a total average annual kill (including hunting loss) in the high tens of thousands. No reliable system is in place to monitor catches of ringed seals, so any estimate must be derived from a heterogeneous array of sources.
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