Department of Fisheries and Oceans biologist Mike Hammill took a helicopter tour of the Gulf this week. Hammill said the ice pans upon which the seals give birth are small, making it difficult for them to nurse their young.
He expects as many as half the pups born in Atlantic Canada could be lost.
"Probably what has come into the Gulf is probably very high mortality," he said.
"How it affects the whole herd, you know — is it going to be 50 per cent overall? It's hard to say."
This is the second consecutive year of poor ice conditions in the Gulf, but Hammill is not concerned about the overall health of the herd. New survey results show there are an estimated 9 million harp seals in Atlantic Canada. Despite two years of poor birth conditions the seal herd is healthy, says DFO biologist Mike Hammill.Despite two years of poor birth conditions the seal herd is healthy, says DFO biologist Mike Hammill. CBC
"We're dealing with a very healthy resource, but we've run into a couple of bad years so it's something to watch," he said. "I think we're still in good shape."