Major victory as Russia bans trade in harp seal skins

Yay! Thanks to all my friends!I’m thrilled to tell you that the door to one of the largest markets for seal products has now been slammed shut – the Customs Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation has banned the import and export of harp seal skins. It’s the biggest victory in the campaign to end commercial sealing since the European Union (EU) banned non-Inuit seal products, and we could not ask for a more wonderful holiday gift for everyone who has fought so hard with IFAW to protect seals.

According to the Government of Canada, Russia receives up to 90% of Canada's exports of seal pelts.  In 2009, the same year that the EU banned non-Inuit seal products, Russia ended its own hunt for harp seals in the White Sea and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin called it a “bloody industry” and something that “should have been banned years ago.”

IFAW’s campaign efforts have a history of successes in Russia, beginning with our efforts to end the slaughter of whitecoat seal pups by helicopter in the White Sea.  Our teams observed and documented the Russian harp seal hunt in the White Sea in 1995 for the first time, and we were the first organization to campaign to end the Russian seal slaughter.  Documentaries of the White Sea hunt were produced and widely shown on Russian television, along with photos and news articles.  Thanks to IFAW, the Russian seal hunt could not remain hidden, and this cruel slaughter soon became public knowledge.  IFAW’s exposure of subsidies to the Russian seal hunt, and the growing lack of demand for whitecoat seal products, added further strength to the campaign.

In 2008, ongoing IFAW support of aerial surveys and scientific research began to reveal an alarming decrease in the harp seal population in the White Sea, and IFAW was quick to bring our concerns to the attention of Russian public, media, and policymakers.  In 2008 our campaign reached a tipping point as IFAW delivered petitions signed by 400,000 people to the Russian government. In 2009 anti-sealing protests were held in Moscow and 25 other Russian cities, and Russia ultimately ended its commercial harp seal hunt.  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.”

The Belarus-Kazakhstan-Russian trade ban is a significant victory that should be celebrated by all concerned with animal welfare and wildlife conservation. The full implications of this ban, with Russia’s recent accession to the WTO, remain to be seen.  With the Russian market closed to harp seal fur products, and a long-promised deal to export seal meat to China at risk due to concerns over food security, the future looks bleaker than ever for the dying Canadian sealing industry. The time has come to acknowledge that the world does not want, nor need, cruel seal products. It is time to stop commercial seal hunting once and for all. 


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 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, Kazakhstan, and the Russian Federation ban the import and export fur skins of harp seals and their whitecoat pups

Comments: 376

6 years ago

Happy holidays to the seals! Finally.

6 years ago

Thank you Russia for your immense contribution! Canada will stop the killing if no one wants the product. China - do the right thing (but let's remember, they still want endangered species meat, bones & fur).

South Korea should be pressured to stop the cruel killing of dogs and cats for human consumption & fur products. The more the animal is terrified and skinned alive, the more potent they think their meat will be when consumed. Organizing boycotts of products by advertisers to the upcoming Olympics in Korea would be a good place to start.

6 years ago

That is great news !!!

6 years ago


6 years ago

Dear Canadian Senators,

We urge the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to work
to end Canada's seal hunt and immediately study the negative impacts
of the proposed killing of thousands of seals off Canada’s East
Coast.The barbarity of Canada's seal hunt must be exposed and contrary
to the Fisheries Ministry's promotion of its bloody sustainability,
there is no justification for such large scale animal cruelty,
particularly when the European Union and the United States have banned
all seal hunt products as a means of ending the seal hunt. (Already,
27 countries around the world ban the import of seal pup fur from
Canada and others are considering similar bans)

More than 80% of seals killed in the past four years have been under
one year of age which may significantly impact current and future seal
populations. Fisheries Canada and the sealing industry claim that no
white-coat harp seal pups are killed any longer. (The term
"white-coat" refers to the stage of development of a pup, and means
the pup is 14 to 21 days of age) Instead, sealers simply wait less
than a day until the seal’s fur begins to moult before they club, stab
or shoot the seal pups. The Humane Society of Canada--which is
adamantly opposed to the seal hunt (read below)-- called on the Harper
Government to create an intergovermental taskforce to establish and
maintain a fund to buy back sealing licences and launch new
initiatives to promote eco-tourism and other sources of income for

The federal subsidy to maintain the seal hunt --which would not exist
without it-- is a multi-million dollar boon-doogle resulting in
escalating costs to Canadian taxpayers and to Canada’s international
reputation. In a report entitled "Economics of the Canadian Sealing
Industry", the Canadian Institute for Business and the Environment
(CIBE) acknowledges that, "...government subsidies for failing,
outdated industries that are being left in the wake of the changing
economy can be detrimental to the economy, and can provide false hope
to the workers in those sectors." [Click: ] In fact, CIBE
experts called on the provincial and federal governments to reduce and
eliminate subsidies to the sealing industry sector, warning that many
Europeans and Americans feel negatively about the trapping and hunting
of wild fur-bearing animals for commercial purposes, which may hurt
one of the fastest growing industry sectors in the Atlantic Provinces
- tourism.

A cull of seals will have serious consequences on the Atlantic
ecosystem and the long term health of many species, including cod. As
our Senate representatives, we implore you to study the impact that
uncontrolled foreign overfishing in Canadian waters has had on cod
stocks and examine the total lack of scientific proof that seals are
affecting codfish recovery. Vilifying seals for the depletion of
Atlantic cod stocks may assuage senators conscience, but animal
cruelty for the sake of profit is unconscionable.

We call on the Senate Standing Committee on Fisheries and Oceans to
practice due diligence and gather scientific evidence that refutes the
sustainability of the seal hunt, not simply endorse those studies that
fit in with the goal of killing 338,200 seals--an increase of 55,000
seals from last year. As Canadians opposed to the seal hunt, it is
time to end the indefensible slaughter of Canadian seals so that a few
hunters may profit from state-sponsored animal cruelty.

Rhonda Costas & Davis MIrza
Toronto, CANADA.

PS: From Humane Society of Canada's "Save the Seal" campaign--"On the
ice in the midst of a seal nursery where they were born, pups will be
killed in sight of their mothers; adults will also be shot, stabbed
and clubbed. When protests against the seal hunt began thirty years
ago, tens of thousands of seals were being killed, and today hundreds
of thousands of seals are being killed. We need new solutions to bring
an end to the largest tax payer funded slaughter of marine mammals on
the planet. Find out what The Humane Society of Canada is doing to
stop this, and how you can help. Because when it comes to fighting
cruelty, we don’t give up. Ever"

6 years ago

This is the best Christmas message ever!! Thank you to all of those involved in making this happen.

6 years ago

It just goes to show how much education can make a real impact. Thank you to all who have helped to make this happen, don't stop till this is over forever!!! This has just become a sick sport to some sick people who have no heart for animals and should burn in hell for what they do to these beautiful defenseless animals! Please keep going!! We can do this!!! We are the voice and protecters for these sweet animals!!

6 years ago

YESSS I can fly, I can jump, scream on the top of a mountain of happiness. I am proud of all of you for your perseverance and the hard work. Very hopeful for the common sense of humanity. Thank you IFAW, thank you supporters!!

6 years ago

I am glad to see this senseless slaughter end in the largest market for these helpless pups white coats ... just so some one "rich" could sport a white sealskin jacket or coat!

6 years ago

yes! this will lift a load off my shoulders! :)

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Azzedine Downes,IFAW President and CEO
President and Chief Executive Officer
Beth Allgood, Country Director, United States
Country Director, United States
Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Faye Cuevas, Esq.
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Grace Ge Gabriel, Regional Director, Asia
Regional Director, Asia
Jason Bell, Vice President for Conservation and Animal Welfare
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Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
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Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
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Campaigns Manager, IFAW Washington, D.C.
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Staci McLennan, Director, EU Office
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