The massive decline in seals killed in commercial hunts continues, thanks to international trade bans on the import of seal products from these hunts. The Canadian Sealers Association says that fewer than 55,000 harp seals were landed this year compared to 91,000 in 2013 and 69,000 in 2012.
This number, while huge, is still far below the government’s massive quota of nearly 470,000 seals, even though reports suggest prices of $35 for the highest quality pelts. The Sealer’s Association is calling on the Canadian Government to do more to fight bans on the import of seal products in the U.S., Mexico, European Union, Russia and Taiwan. It has received $292,000 in government support to help create and sell new seal meat products.
In May 2014, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) rejected a further appeal by Canada and Norway and upheld the European Union ‘s ban on imports of seal products from commercial hunts. This landmark ruling is final and means that the EU ban, introduced in 2010, does not breach rules on free trade.
However, this ban does contain exemptions for indigenous people in Canada, Greenland, Alaska and Russia that are allowed to trade seal products with the EU. Canada and Norway argued these exemptions were unfair to non-indigenous hunting communities and that the scale of the Greenland hunt was tantamount to commercial sealing. In response, the WTO panel did comment that if the EU felt animal welfare was so important, it should also strengthen regulations governing indigenous hunting. The Seal Protection Action Group could not agree more given the obvious cruelty involved in these hunts.