A key part of IFAW’s work to protect seals is to end the trade in seal products.

In 1983, thanks to our work exposing the cruelty of commercial seal hunts, Europe banned the importation of products from “whitecoat” harp seals, saving more than a million newborn seals from slaughter over the next 10 years.

In 2009, the European Union banned the importation of all seal products, with an exemption for Inuit products, saving even more seals’ lives. Then in 2011, the Customs Union of the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan banned the import and export of harp seal skins.

In China and other parts of Asia, there is growing opposition to products derived from cruel seal hunts. We are campaigning to ensure that Asian consumers are aware of the cruelty involved in commercial seal hunts and that new markets for seal products do not emerge.

Our work, supported by millions of like-minded individuals around the world, has helped bring about trade bans in 30 countries and reduce the demand for seal products. Together we will continue the fight until the trade in seal products ends and the killing stops.

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 whitecoat harp seal and blueback hooded seal products.

  • 1987 Canadian Government bans commercial hunting of newborn harp seals (whitecoats) and hooded seal pups (bluebacks) in Canadian waters.

  • 1990 With IFAW’s encouragement, South Africa ends the hunt for Cape fur seals.

  • 2006 Mexico bans the import and export of marine mammals, including seals.

  • 2007 IFAW campaign results in Belgium and the Netherlands adopting national bans on the import of seal products.

  • 2009 Russia bans the killing of harp seals under 12 months old.

  • 2009 EU bans the import of all seal products, with an exemption for Inuit.

  • 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 Customs Union of the Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan ban the import and export of harp seal skins.

  • 2013 The WTO heard arguments for the first time from Canada and Norway attacking the EU’s ban on the importation of seal products.