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Nova Scotia seal hunters all but give up on Hay Island hunt Add to ...

Sealers in Cape Breton no longer expect to harvest grey seals this year on Hay Island.

Robert Courtney, president of the North of Smokey Fishermen's Association, said Thursday that sealers were counting on assistance from the Nova Scotia government to prepare seal products to meet the requirements of a buyer, but it didn't happen.

"They just backed out of the whole thing," he said. "We needed them to make things work and anyway, they're not there.

"As far as Hay Island, it's basically finished for this year unless something happens in the next day or two, but I don't see it."

Mr. Courtney said he was disappointed that the Hay Island hunt won't go ahead, noting that there are likely few grey seal pups left on the island this late in the Feb. 8 to March 15 season.

The federal Fisheries Department set a quota of 2,200 animals.

Hay Island is a rocky landscape that is part of the Scaterie Island wilderness area off Cape Breton.

Greg Roach, associate deputy minister, confirmed that the provincial Department of Fisheries and Aquaculture has been working with the sealers, buyers and other government partners on developing markets for the seals. However, he said the pieces didn't fall into place in time for the Hay Island hunt.

"The harvesters were identified, the processing buyer group were identified but we didn't have the details. We don't just write cheques and let's see what happens. We needed a little more information and more partners involved."

Rebecca Aldworth of the Humane Society International/Canada, which has been standing by in Cape Breton to oppose and document the hunt, was pleased to hear the sealers no longer expect to go out.

"My first reaction is just tremendous relief that the pups we saw on Hay Island will actually have a chance to survive this year," she said. "It's a very bittersweet thing to go out to such an incredibly beautiful place and see such amazing wild animals and to know exactly what is pending for them, what these sealers will do."

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