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A seal hunter drags a harp seal back to his snowmobile during the annual seal hunt on a ice floe in the Gulf of St. Lawrence on April 2, 2005.JONATHAN HAYWARD/The Canadian Press

Fisheries Minister Gail Shea is blaming animal-rights activists for pressuring the Chinese government to back away from a trade deal to sell Canadian seal meat.

Shea says groups opposed to the hunt continue to spread misinformation.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare has been campaigning to end the hunt since 1969, and has an office in China.

But its director of Canadian wildlife says it doesn't have as much influence as Shea would like to believe.

"Looking back at the record, it looks like the Canadian government has been promising Chinese markets for seal products since at least 1985," Sheryl Fink said in an interview Monday. "It's just not a product that people want to buy."

As well, Fink said the Chinese public is aware of what happens in Canada's commercial seal hunt largely because of work done by home-grown animal welfare groups, not Canadian interlopers.

"People are becoming more aware on their own now," she said. "People [in China] have Internet access and can see what's happening for themselves."

Shea announced a trade deal with China in 2011, but it's been stalled since the Chinese government said it had called for a review of the agreement.

The annual East Coast seal hunt began on Monday.

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