The Department of Fisheries and Oceans catches two whitecoat harp seals each year to put on display at the aquarium in the Magdalen Islands. The seals are then released back into the wild each fall when the aquarium closes.
New rules at the DFO barred the release of the seals this year out of concerns the seals could transmit disease to wild populations in the ocean, The (Montreal) Gazette reported.
More than 124,000 people signed a petition to save the seals, which the aquarium had determined to euthanize.
In response to the public outcry, the aquarium issued a statement Friday saying it could send the seals to a facility in Brest, France, but would need $75,000 to care for the animals in the meantime.
"It feels a little like they're taking the seals hostage -- like a ransom note: 'Now that you're upset, give us some money or we'll kill them,' " said Michelle Cliffe, a spokesperson for the International Fund for Animal Welfare.
"We think it's the responsibility of an aquarium to have a plan and the finances to care for animals prior to taking on those animals."