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More European countries join ban on harp seal products
Inuit organization looks into impact on hunting industry

Nicole Garbutt
Northern News Services
Published Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Russian Federation, Belarus and Kazakhstan joined with the European Union (EU) by banning the import of all harp seal products effective last summer, and now the Nunavut government and Inuit are examining how the ban might affect the territory in the new year.

NNSL photo/graphic

A group of Grade 8 students from Inuujaq School in Arctic Bay surround hunter Koonerk Enoogoo as he demonstrates how to hunt for baby seals in 2008, a year before the ban was imposed by the European Union. - photo courtesy of Addeline Akikuluk

Ron Brown, manager of Fisheries and Sealing for the Nunavut government, said it is difficult to determine what impact the ban will have on Nunavut, adding his department is still gathering information about it.

Harp seals are generally not hunted by Inuit in Nunavut, he said.

Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami (ITK), a national advocacy group for Inuit that addresses issues of social, economic and political development is trying to determine what the impact the ban may have on the sealing industry and a sustainable way of life. The group is also gathering more information about the ban, stated Stephen Hendrie, director of communications for the organization, in an e-mail to Nunavut News/North.

"It's unfortunate this action was taken," Hendrie stated.

Last September the EU court ruled against a Canadian Inuit challenge of the EU ban.

"(The Russian Federation ban) doesn't affect our court actions at the EU," Hendrie stated. "We are proceeding as planned."

Harp seals, which migrate seasonally, head North in April and May to summer in the waters around Nunavut's eastern Arctic and the West Coast of Greenland, according to Environment Canada. During winters and the pupping season in late spring, the Northwest Atlantic harp seal populations are predominately found in Newfoundland and Labrador, contributing to the livelihood of Nunatsiavut Inuit. Ringed and bearded seals are more commonly found year-round in Nunavut.

According to the federal government's research, the population of harp seals is estimated to be almost 8 million animals. This is more than three times the population estimates from 40 years ago.

"The Atlantic and northern seal hunts in Canada are humane, sustainable and well-regulated activities that provide an important source of food and income for thousands of sealers and their families," stated Ed Fast, federal minister of International Trade, in a news release.

"The government of Canada is following up with the Russian Federation to get a better understanding of the nature and extent of the apparent trade restrictions introduced by the Custom Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia. We will continue to work with them to ensure ongoing access for Canadian seal products in that market. Until we get a better understanding of the nature of the trade action introduced by the Russian Federation, it is not possible to say what could be the impact, if any to Canadian Sealers," Fast stated in a second news release sent to Nunavut News/North.

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