EU Parliament, Council should support EU Commission seal proposal

New proposal balances concerns of EU citizens with EU’s WTO obligationsThe EU Commission recently released its proposal on how to change the groundbreaking EU seal trade regulation to make it compliant with WTO rules. In brief, it’s a very good and we think it should get the full support of the EU Parliament and EU Council who now need to approve the proposal.

What changed?

In short, not a lot.

The WTO said most of the regulation was fine. It reflects the moral concern of Europeans who abhor the cruelty of commercial sealing. And there’s no problem with the EU forbidding the sale of seal pelts and other products from commercial sealing.

What was the issue?

The two main issues were with two (of the three) exceptions in the seal trade regulation.

The first exception (Marine Resource Management) allowed fishermen to kill seals that threatened to cause damage and sell the seal parts afterwards to recoup some of the cost of killing those seals. But fishermen were not allowed to make a profit, only cover their costs.

This exception has now been removed.

Fishermen will still be allowed to kill seals with permission from their national government but they won’t be able to sell the seal parts afterwards.

Learn more about seals and fish here.

The other exception was for hunting by Inuit and indigenous communities.

Since the EU seal trade regulation came into force in 2010 Inuit communities have been allowed to sell seal products in the EU.

Greenlandic Inuit have been doing this successfully while Canadian Inuit have not.

The WTO believed that this showed the current system wasn’t working.

1.The new proposal from the EU Commission includes a commitment to develop a system in conjunction with Canadian authorities to ensure that Canadian Inuit have improved access to the EU market and that Inuit hunts meet three criteria: the hunt has been traditionally conducted by the community;

2.The hunt contributes to the subsistence of the community and is not conducted            primarily for commercial reasons;

3.The hunt is conducted in a manner which reduces pain, distress, fear or other forms of suffering of the animals hunted to the extent possible taking into consideration the traditional way of life and the subsistence needs of the community.

Learn more about aboriginal seal hunts here.

The third exception, known as the ‘personal effects exception’ was not challenged by Canada and Norway at the WTO and so is unchanged.

What’s next?

Now the proposal from the EU Commission needs to be approved by the European Parliament and EU Council by Oct. 18th, 2015 which is the deadline set by the WTO.

We’ll be working here in Brussels to ensure that the hundreds of seal ban supporters in the European Parliament approve this proposal and that the EU Council also give their quick approval.


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

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Céline Sissler-Bienvenu, Director, France and Francophone Africa
Director, France and Francophone Africa
Sheryl Fink, Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Campaign Director, Canadian Wildlife
Sonja Van Tichelen, Vice President of International Operations
Vice President of International Operations