Thinning Sea Ice Killing Seal Pups

Canada is facing fresh calls to shut down its commercial seal hunt, as new evidence shows dramatically increased death rates among seal pups due to thinning winter sea ice.

According to a study, conducted by scientists at Duke University and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, thinning sea ice in the north Atlantic has caused a catastrophic decline in harp seal populations. Sea ice cover in all harp seal breeding regions has declined by as much as 6 percent per decade since 1979.

Since female seal pups depend on stable winter ice to give birth and nurse their young, these changing conditions have produced a higher seal mortality, said David Johnston of the Duke University Marine Laboratory and lead author of the study, which was published in the journal PLoS ONE.

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