It's not clear whether the decision will actually negatively impact the hunt yet; it's possible that a private investor could step in to fund it. But Fink says she thinks that the loss of government funds is a huge blow for the industry. This, coupled with a waning demand for seal fur and oil, the primary products sold by the industry, have led to a major decline in seal hunting lately. In 2014, only three hunting boats participated, landing a catch of 11,980 harp seals, compared with a catch of more than 20,000 harp seals in 2005.
A few elements have contributed to the steep decline of the sealing industry in recent years. One is a 2010 ban on importing seal products passed by the EU. Another is public awareness about the brutality of the hunts. Hunters use clubs or spiked tools called hakapiks to kill seals, without stunning them first. Most of the time, the seals are just-weaned pups, less than three months old.
While proponents and fishermen argue that the seal hunt is traditional and used to keep the seal populations in check, Fink argues that keeping seal populations robust benefits the entire ecosystem.