EU seal product trade ban nears WTO compliance

The EU seal ban has helped save more than 2 million seals from a cruel death by the commercial seal hunt.June was a good month for seals, as the EU moved a very important step closer to meeting WTO compliance for its regulation on the trade in seal products.

On 4 June, Parliament’s Internal Market & Consumer Protection Committee (IMCO) adopted a report that supported the Commission’s proposal to remove the Marine Resource Management (MRM) exception found in violation of WTO rules.

The exception had been added to the original regulation to allow fishermen to kill seals that threatened damage and to sell the parts on a non-profit basis. WTO ruled this exception was not distinguishable in nature from commercial hunts and therefore was a violation.

IFAW has vigorously lobbied Parliament and Council to ensure revisions to the EU regulation maintained a focus on protecting animal welfare and achieving WTO compliance.

We were battling a fierce lobby by the hunting community to keep the MRM exception that was found discriminatory by WTO and to widen the Inuit and other indigenous communities (IC) exception to such an extent as to blur the lines of commercial hunts. IFAW does not oppose aboriginal hunting of seals and did not oppose the IC exception.

Fortunately, our efforts paid off and at the end of June, Member States via the Permanent Representatives Committee (Coreper) confirmed agreement on compromise text from the 25 June trilogue meeting of the Parliament, Council and Commission. The new text eliminates the MRM exception and maintains the Inuit and other indigenous communities exception but with very specific conditions focused on animal welfare, tradition and subsistence.

Furthermore, an anti-circumvention clause is included to allow the Commission to prohibit products not meeting the criteria (e.g. based on evidence that the hunt is for primarily commercial purposes). 

Since its adoption, the EU seal ban has helped save more than 2 million seals from a cruel death by the commercial seal hunt.

The new regulation will be voted on by the European Parliament in early September and sent to Council for adoption. Meeting the WTO deadline, the new EU Seal Regime is anticipated to enter into force on 18 October 2015.

--SM

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