Canada has said it will allow 320,000 young seals to be killed this year and launched a strong attack on activists who oppose the hunt.
Ottawa says the hunt helps ensure the health of what it describes as a booming seal population. But pictures of hunters clubbing defenceless animals to death have turned the event into an annual public relations nightmare for the government.
The two-month hunt, which starts this year on 29 March, takes place on ice floes off the Atlantic coast where the seals give birth.
Canada says the hunt is humane, but animal rights groups say many animals are skinned alive and die in agony.
Fisheries Minister Geoff Regan, reflecting increasing frustration with the activists, said they were issuing "misleading rhetoric and sensational images that tell a selective, biased and often false story" about the hunt.
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