At the end of the 1800's seal oil declined as the major export of the seal hunt due to it being replaced with other products and seal hides took the lead. Sealing experienced a great decline and went from providing 30% to 10% of Newfoundland's exports.

By 1906 improved steam ships were introduced with thicker reinforced hulls. During the early 1900's the sealing industry was touch and go. At times experiencing short lived highs but with the onset of WWI the sealing vessels were pressed into service. By the 1920's the fleet had recovered to 8-12 vessels and aircraft were used to locate the seal herds.

The seal hunt went on to barely survive the depression of the 1930's and what vessels remained were pressed into service again during WWII. 1943 marked the first time in 150 years that not a single vessel ventured out for the hunt. The end of the war marked a drastic change in the seal hunt. By 1947, the number of larger vessels participating in the hunt dropped to two but many small motorized vessels began to participate. During this time foreign vessels from Canada, Norway, Denmark, France, United States and the Soviet Union slowly seized the hunt in a strangle hold, pushing out the Newfoundland Merchants. Sound familiar?

In 1969 only one Newfoundland vessel participated in the hunt and was joined by a smaller vessel in the early 1970's. The early 70's marked a transition of Newfoundland sealing interests from large commercial based vessels to smaller inshore vessels. It is interesting to note that Norwegian fleets account for over 50% of seals harvested off Newfoundland between 1950 and 1970. Scientists later concluded that the seal population declined 50%-60% during this time.
Now, after many regulation changes, large vessels are banned from the hunt which is now solely carried out by inshore fishermen in smaller vessels.
Population History
Year(s) Population Comments
1970's 1,800,000  
1996 5,200,000 Census taken
1999 5,200,000 Estimate
2004 5,800,000 Census taken
2007 5,500,000 Estimate
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