Humane Observer Report - 1988 Fur Seal Harvest on St. Paul Island
Independent observer report on the northern fur seal subsistence harvest
Northern Fur seals (Callorhinus ursinus) have been harvested for their pelts for the last 200 years on the Pribilof Islands. During this time period, the native Pribilovians could freely take the meat of the harvested animals for food. On St. Paul Island, the commercial harvest for pelts ceased in 1984; thus a subsistence harvest began with only immature males taken for food. This subsistence harvest has continued for the last five years (1984 - 1988). The harvest is a remarkably well planned and orderly procedure. The young male seals are gathered, driven from their haulout area and held in a large pod. Five to 15 seals are then cut from this large pod and driven to a group of three to four men who stun the animals by hitting them on the skull or in the upper neck with a solid wooden club. The animals are dragged a short distance away from the killing area, and a person cuts the chest and heart open. The animal is skinned and then butchered for human consumption. For a more detailed description of the procedures of the harvest, see Humane Observer Report Stoskopf, 1984; Letcher, 1985; Dorsey, 1986; Zimmerman 1986. This report will be limited to my observations of the humane activities of the harvest procedure for the time period of July and August 1988.