05/10/2013 03:09 EDT | Updated 07/10/2013 05:12 EDT

Federal government announces quota for harp seal hunt, weeks after it began

OTTAWA - The federal government has announced the quota for this year's commercial harp seal hunt, weeks after it began.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans says on its website that the total allowable catch for harp seals this year has been set at 400,000, the same quota that was set for last year.

The quota for hooded seals is 8,200 — also the same as last year.

The harp seal hunt off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador began about a month ago.

In past years, the department announced the quota before the hunt started.

The department said in an email that 90,474 harp seals have been killed as of Thursday, but it did not respond when asked why the quota was announced after the hunt started.

Animal welfare groups say the hunt is inhumane and have called on Ottawa to support a buyout of the sealing industry.

But the government says the hunt is humane, sustainable and a source of revenue for fishermen on the East Coast.