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Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) monitors the harvest on land, sea and air to ensure strict management. Sealers must be trained and licensed to ensure seals are harvested in a humane manner.

Seals have been harvested in Canada for centuries for pelts, blubber, oil and meat. Native populations in arctic regions have been harvesting seals and consuming considerable amounts of marine mammal oils (seal oil and whale oil) containing omega-3 essential fatty acids in their traditional diet. 

Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) published the background research paper to present an overview of the Canadian seal harvest. According to the report, the management of Seal Harvest is under the federal government through DFO. 

The Minister is granted this authority through legislation, including the Fisheries Act,1 the Oceans Act2 and the Species at Risk Act, as well as through the Marine Mammal Regulations (MMR).3 The Commercial Fisheries Licensing Policy for Eastern Canada (1996) – created under the authority of the Fisheries Act – governs the issuance of sealing licences.

Social, Culture and Environmental Importance

Atlantic seal hunting can be traced as far back as the early Dorset culture, 3,000 years ago, and there is early evidence of seal harvesting by the Thule Inuit and Labrador Innu. According to the Canadian Sealers Association, “for thousands of years, seals have provided food, clothing and heat for people living in challenging northern regions” and continue to do so for many Indigenous peoples and northern communities.4

In the Arctic, sealing continues to play an important role in Inuit life, which can be seen in “the rich vocabulary in the Inuktitut language for different species, varieties and characteristics of seals.”5

Moreover, increases in seal populations resulting from a smaller seal hunt could reduce local populations of prey species on which seals depend and potentially affect ecosystems and other local fisheries.


  1. Fisheries Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. F-14.  
  2. Oceans Act, S.C. 1996, c. 31. 
  3. Marine Mammal Regulations, SOR/93-56.  
  4. Canadian Sealers Association, Sealing: Renewable Resource – Responsible Harvesting – Natural Products, Pamphlet.  
  5. Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, Arctic Wildlife pdf (438 kB, 36 pages), p. 30.