Efforts to Close Seal Pelt Markets

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Efforts to Close Seal Pelt Markets

From HarpSeals.org
April 2010

The European Union is now working on a complete ban of seal product imports.

The European Union initially banned imports of pelts from whitecoat seal pups (pups under about 2 weeks of age, before the molting stage) in 1983. This contributed to the near-destruction of the sealing industry. However, the Canadian government and sealing industry soon exploited a loophole in this law.

The Canadian government soon banned the killing of whitecoats, requiring sealers to wait a few extra days and then kill the raggedy jacket (molting) or beater (fully molted) seal pups. After several years, the market for seal fur was restored.

Closing the markets to seal products is the best way to end the commercial seal hunt. With little hope of making money on seal pelts, sealers will not find much motivation for going out into the treacherous icy waters to find and kill seals. Unfortunately, seal pelts are sold around the world, including in Asia, where seal activism is weak. Consequently, the efforts to close the pelt markets can be expected to result in partial success at best.

Nevertheless, this important effort has been undertaken by many nations. The United States banned imports of seal products as well as products from other marine mammals in 1972, with the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Mexico, Germany, Belgium, and the Netherlands enacted bans on seal product imports recently. (In the case of Mexico, this extended to all marine mammals and products from them.)

Most Canadian harp seal pelts are initially purchased by Norwegian companies, especially G.C. Reiber and Co. Norway is not a member of the European Union and would therefore not be directly affected by a total EU ban on seal imports. However, Norway does not provide the main market for the finished products (coats, boots, etc.). From Norway and other importing nations, the pelts or finished products are sold around Europe and Asia. Therefore a total ban on seal product imports into the EU (including Cape fur seal product imports), will deal a major blow to Norway's seal pelt industry due to the closing of the European Union market. This will not, however, eliminate European sales of seal products to non-EU-member nations, such as Russia and Ukraine.