The curator of the National Seal Sanctuary at Gweek and four crew members from Oscha productions in Penryn along with their pilot were lucky to escape with their lives this week while filming the controversial seal hunt in Canada.

Dr Glenn Boyle, curator of the seal sanctuary and film crew Martin Gaunt and Russ Williams were recording in the Gulf of St Lawrence, Canada, for the next Marine Team TV and Video series when a club-wielding seal hunter raced towards them.

Dr Boyle had began an independent review of the controversial seal hunt - which is the world's largest hunt for marine animals when they were forced to retreat rapidly across broken ice when the hunter who had objected to being filmed, angrily approached them.

He had been "making a complete hash of dispatching the pups at his feet," said Dr Boyle.

A helicopter, their only means of escape, had to take off without them when the hunter's 65ft boat with an ice-breaking bow, started to move towards them cracking the ice it was resting on.

"The four of us were left on a piece of sea ice no bigger than two and a half metres by one metre, clutching expensive cameras and tripods - I looked down at our feet and saw water coming over my boots, we were starting to capsize," said Mr Gaunt.

The group had no choice but to jump onto an untested patch of ice as the oncoming boat was causing more loose ice to move.

The pilot hovered in front of the boat and eventually found another landing spot.

The film crew had obtained permits from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) and were taken to the ice floes where the culling was taking place by an IFAW helicopter.

The aim of the team is to bring marine conservation issues to the widest possible audience. Mr Gaunt said: "Being based in Cornwall, we have an understanding of the marine environment and the cultural issues that go with it. Our own industry has suffered from the depletion of fish stocks and we know how sensitive an issue it can be, when questioning the work of those deriving an income from the sea. But this did not prepare us for the huge animosity we encountered on the ice."

The IFAW is now considering legal action against the sealers.

The Canadian seal hunt is a commercial event, not a cull. Science does not link the decline in fish stocks with seals. The fish decline is more likely attributed to commercial fishing.

This year has been the biggest seal cull for some years. More than 60,000 seals, mostly pups a few weeks old, were clubbed to death primarily for their fur.