Debate begins on EU seal trade regulation

It appears that special interests wish to reopen debate on the entire regulation and not just the technical WTO violations.Debate on changes proposed by the EU Commission to bring the EU seal trade regulation into compliance with WTO rules are currently underway in European Parliament and Council.

IFAW welcomed the Commission’s proposal of technical and legal modifications needed to ensure the EU Seal Regime is non-discriminatory while maintaining the seal products ban as a legitimate means of protecting the EU’s public morals.

Unfortunately, Council and Parliament are not making the process to meet WTO rules an easy journey.  Instead, it appears that special interests wish to reopen debate on the entire regulation and not just the technical WTO violations.

The WTO Panel and Appellate Body rulings were quite straightforward: the EU Ban was upheld, but two of the exceptions (Marine Resource Management & the Inuit and other indigenous communities) were found to be discriminatory. The WTO has also said this issue needs to be resolved by October so quick work in the Parliament is essential.

The MRM exception allowed fisherman to kill seals that threatened damage and to sell the parts on a non-profit basis Learn more about seals and fish here. WTO ruled this exception was not distinguishable in nature from commercial hunts and therefore was a violation.

Despite WTO trade lawyers and the legal services of the Commission and Council all agreeing that the MRM exception must be removed to meet WTO rules, hunters and special interests from Member States around the Baltic Sea are fighting to maintain the MRM exception. Such action will certainly lead to continued violation of WTO rules!

The other hot issue is the revision to the Inuit (IC) exception. A strong lobby from Greenland has resulted in amendments which could broaden the scope on creating a fuzzy line between commercial & subsistence, calls for an impact assessment and public awareness campaign on IC products, and waters down references to animal welfare.

IFAW does not oppose aboriginal hunting of seals and did not oppose the IC exception Learn more about aboriginal seal hunts here. We are worried that some of the proposed IC amendments could risk continued discrimination against Canadian communities in favour of Greenlandic.

The Internal Market & Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) is leading on the report with opinions from committees of International Trade & Agriculture. IFAW is engaging with MEPs and offering our position on amendments (links). Debates and votes will occur over the next few weeks with the IMCO vote on 4 June. Meanwhile, Council is closely monitoring Parliament all in hopes of finding agreement in time for the revisions to be adopted by the 18 October 2015 WTO deadline

--SM

Learn more about IFAW efforts to end commercial seal hunting on our campaign website.

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
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