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Protesters alighting from helicopters to try to stop a seal hunt scuffled Friday with sealers who fired warning shots -- sending the protesters scrambling back to the aircraft.

Canada's harp seal hunt, the target of protests since the 1960s, began this week when thousands of sealers armed with clubs, rifles and spears headed for the ice floes off eastern Canada for the world's largest such hunt.

Canada says the hunt brings $16.5 million in badly needed income to its coastal communities, primarily from pelt sales to Norway, Denmark and China. Animal activists condemn the hunt as barbaric.

Protesters arrived by helicopters Friday, and a sealer approached swinging a 12 foot stick with a hook. At one point, a snowmobile carrying two sealers hurtled toward the activists but swung away at the last moment.

The two groups started shoving each other, when several shots were fired into the air by a sealer aboard a boat, and the protesters retreated to their helicopters. No one was hurt.