OTTAWA - For the first time in years, the International Fund for Animal Welfare won't be sending teams of observers out on the Atlantic sea ice during the spring seal hunt.
The long-standing opponent of commercial sealing says it is time to refocus efforts on politicians who are trying to keep afloat an industry it calls "obsolete."
Sheryl Fink, the head of the IFAW's seal campaign, says the lobby group is taking a step back because the annual, much-publicized confrontations on the ice may actually serve to keep the commercial hunt alive.
The dangerous spring stand-off between the anti-sealing lobby and commercial harvesters has been a staple in Atlantic Canada for a generation.
Fink says fewer than 800 sealers took part last year and the international markets for seal products has dried up.
Canada and Norway are both fighting seal-product bans at the World Trade Organization, prompting the animal-rights group to launch a publicity campaign that lampoons a fictional government "Department of Obsolete Industry."