Death knell for the Canadian seal hunt: Russia bans trade in harp seal pelts

Monday, December 19, 2011

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) is applauding the news that Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation have banned the import and export of harp seal skins.  Canada claims that Russia is one of the last two major remaining markets for Canadian seal products, reportedly receiving up to 90% of Canada's exports of seal pelts.  The IFAW says this is a major victory in the campaign to end commercial sealing, and that it should send a strong message that this is an industry whose time has passed.

“Russia ended its own hunt of harp seals in 2009, after listening to the concerns of the people who felt it was a cruel and unnecessary slaughter,” said Masha Vorontsova, Director of IFAW Russia. “We are extremely pleased that the Russian government has taken the next logical step by banning all trade in harp seal pelts from other countries as well.”

The Russian market has long been hailed by the Canadian government as the main market for Canadian seal products. With the European Union ban on non-Inuit seal products still in place, a long-promised seal meat deal with China still unsigned, IFAW says the Canadian government and the sealing industry should acknowledge the reality that markets for seal products are disappearing.

“The writing is on the wall” said Sheryl Fink, Director of IFAW’s Seal Program. “The Canadian government knows seal products are not wanted, and has had ample time to transition sealers out of this industry with compensation. Instead they have done nothing but dispute the rights of other nations by challenging seal product bans at the WTO.  As Russia follows in the steps of the EU and closes its doors to seal products, it’s time to say enough is enough and stop the seal slaughter once and for all.”

“Canada will continue to be shunned by the international community as long as we persist with the outdated, inhumane, and unnecessary slaughter of seal pups,” continued Fink.

IFAW has been campaigning to end commercial seal hunting for more than 40 years, and our work helped bring about the end of the Russian seal hunt in 2009. At the time, Russia’s Minister of Natural Resources Yury Trutnev said, “The bloody seal slaughter, the killing of the defenseless animals, which can’t be even called a ‘hunt,’ is now prohibited in Russia as it is in most developed countries. It is a serious step towards the conservation of biodiversity in Russia.” Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also called seal hunting a “bloody industry” and something that “should have been banned years ago.”

Timeline of shrinking markets

  • 1972 US Congress passes Marine Mammal Protection Act, which bans the importation of seal products.
  • 1983 IFAW helps win crucial ban in Europe on importation of newborn (whitecoat) harp seal and hooded seal (blueback) products.
  • 1987 Canadian Government bans commercial hunting of whitecoats and bluebacks in Canadian waters.
  • 1990 With IFAW’s involvement, South Africa ends the hunt for Cape fur seals.
  • 2006 Mexico bans the import and export of marine mammals, including seals.
  • 2007 IFAW campaigns result in Belgium and the Netherlands adopting national bans on the import of seal products.
  • 2009 Russia bans the killing of harp seal pups under 12 months of age.
  • 2009 European Union bans the import of all seal products, with an exemption for Inuit-derived skins.
  • 2010 IFAW continues its fight to protect the EU ban, and continues to expose the cruelty of commercial hunts to governments around the world.
  • 2011 Deal between Canada and China to allow export of seal meat products postponed
  • 2011 Belarus, Kazhakhstan, and the Russian Federation ban the import and export fur skins of harp seals and their whitecoat pups

About IFAW

IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare) was established in 1969 and its founding campaign was in opposition to Canada’s commercial seal hunt. IFAW has more than 40 years of experience raising awareness, documenting and opposing the cruel commercial hunts for seals in Canada and around the world.

Notes to editors:

The trade document listing the ban can be found here: http://www.wto.org/english/news_e/news11_e/table1_annual_overview11.xls

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Sheryl Fink (IFAW CA)
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Experts

Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Dr. Ralf (Perry) Sonntag, Country Director, Germany
Country Director, Germany
Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
Regional Director, Oceania
IFAW Japan Representative
IFAW Japan Representative
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales