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Keywords:

  • Pagophilus groenlandicus;
  • harp seal population assessment;
  • unreported mortalities;
  • struck and loss estimates;
  • commercial seal hunt

Abstract

One of the major sources of unreported mortality during the commercial harp seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) hunt in the Northwest Atlantic is the number of animals that are killed but not recovered or reported, commonly referred to as struck and lost. With the significant expansion of the hunt in Canada and in Greenland during the mid-1990s, there is a concern that the number of seals lost may have reached a level that is not sustainable relative to current harvest levels. To address this problem a study examining struck and loss rates was initiated in 1998 and 1999. Loss rates for young seals taken on the ice varied from 0% to 1.9% and from 0% to 10.0% when taken in the water. Seals greater than one year of age had loss rates of 0%–4.9% when taken on the ice and 13.8%-50.0% when taken in the water. These estimates are lower than those recently reported for Northwest Atlantic harp seals.