05/29/2012 01:31 EDT | Updated 07/29/2012 05:12 EDT

Seal Hunt: 70,000 Harp Seals Killed This Year, Newfoundland Government Says

ST. JOHN'S, N.L. - Newfoundland and Labrador's fisheries minister says 70,000 harp seals have been killed during this year's commercial seal hunt — nearly twice the number that was killed last year.

Darin King told the provincial legislature that 680 sealers took part in this year's hunt, which had a total allowable catch of 400,000.

About 38,000 harp seals were killed last year.

King says he believes the higher catch level reflects an opening of markets in Asia, an argument animal rights groups contest.

Earlier this year, the provincial government announced a $3.6 million loan to Carino Processing Ltd., a seal products company, in an effort to kick-start the hunt.

The funds went to Carino Processing to buy seal pelts and blubber.

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