After years of denying that the hakapik and the club were inhumane, the Canadian government in a desperate attempt to appease European legislators has decided to restrict the use of both weapons.
The Canadian government is also now demanding that the sealers ensure that they kill the seals before skinning them, rather than skinning them alive; something they have long denied is done.
The European Parliament has voted to propose a ban on all seal products that originate from any inhumane hunt.
Fisheries Minister Gail Shea is now denying that these changes are nothing more than "tweaks" to existing regulations and stating that Canada has no intention of shutting down the annual slaughter of hundreds of thousands of seal pups every year.
Canada also intends to budget more funds to defend the seal killers on the ice from interference by hunt opponents.
The DFO report also estimates how much it would cost to implement the proposed restrictions: $1.8 million to $3.6 million. That amount would include increased costs to sealers and local coast guard crews.
"There is no humane way to kill a seal," said Captain Paul Watson. "The more civilized elected representatives in Europe are not going to be hood-winked by continued Canadian propaganda about how "humane" the slaughter is. Anyone with half a brain need only witness the killing to see for themselves how despicably cruel the killing is. That is why cameras and video documentation of the killing is illegal. The government does not want the public to see what is going on out there on the ice every year."
The Premiers of both Nunavut and Newfoundland and Labrador have called on the federal government to ban the use of the traditional hakapik, or spiked club, for killing seals. They have long argued that the use of the hakapik presents a barbaric image and should be discouraged.
The new rules actually state that: "No person shall use a club or a hakapik to strike a seal older than one year unless the seal has been shot with a firearm.
But less than one per cent of the annual hunt involves seals older than one year.
A hakapik or club is used primarily to crush the skulls before seals are bled and skinned. Under the new rules, an existing provision called a "blink test" - used to check whether seals are permanently unconscious before skinning - is being eliminated because it is considered unreliable. The only acceptable test will be feeling the seal's cranium to make sure it is broken.
The new rule calls for the sealers to bleed the seal for a full minute before skinning. The regulations acknowledge that this will result in significantly increased costs to sealers by "reducing the speed of the harvest."
But with the European Parliament and its 27 member countries poised to stop all imports of seal products as early as March, the government felt a regulatory gesture was needed according to the Canadian Press.
And that is all it is - a gesture.
The European Union has proposed a ban on seal products from countries that "practice cruel methods" -- that could include bludgeoning seals with a hakapik.
To ensure sealers follow the guidelines in 2009, the DFO says it would use helicopter-mounted cameras to film the hunt. Actual enforcement would be carried out by coast guard officials aboard icebreaker vessels.
What is lost in all of this controversy over cruelty is the fact that the seal slaughter is doing irreparable damage to the marine eco-system of the Northwestern Atlantic Ocean. Seal populations have been reduced to fewer than 10% of their original numbers. The East coast walrus has been extirpated. The Sea Mink, the Labrador duck and the Auk are now extinct. Bird and other marine mammal populations have been decimated. In the five hundred years that this slaughter of so many species has been occurring the ecology of the region had declined and now all the fisheries are in a state of collapse.
"The Department of Fisheries and Oceans, as the most incompetent and destructive bureaucracy in Canada, has overseen the near total destruction of everything it was set up to manage and protect. They have destroyed the cod, the herring, the salmon, the whales and now they are intent on scape-goating the seals for their blunders by destroying them also,"said Captain Paul Watson. "Gail Shea is as much of an ecological idiot as those clowns Hearn, Efford, Crosby, and LeBlanc. It's been nothing but decades of ecological maniacs on a killing spree, and Shea is showing that she can be as ruthless and as mercenary as any of the male thugs who came before her."
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will not be returning to the seal slaughter this spring.
"We intend to give the European Parliament the opportunity to end this atrocity through the implementation of a ban on all seal products."
Last year the Sea Shepherd ship Farley Mowat was assaulted in international waters and two crewmembers, Captain Alex Cornelissen of the Netherlands and 1st Officer Peter Hammarstedt of Sweden were charged with approaching closer than a half a mile to a seal being slaughtered. The witnessing or documentation of a seal kill is considered a crime in Canada under the strange Orwellian name of the Seal Protection Regulations.
The Canadian government still holds the Farley Mowat hostage although no charges have been laid against the ship and the two Sea Shepherd officers are scheduled to be tried in a Nova Scotia court in April 2009.