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European Union set to rule on seal ban

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

The General Court of the European Union will decide on Thursday whether it will strike down Europe’s ban on the trade of seal products. The legal challenge to the ban was brought on by a number of organizations, including Inuit groups, sealers’ associations, and the Fur Institute of Canada.

Seal meat and pelts are an important part of Inuit lifestyle and culture. Many Inuit were angered when the European Union banned the import of seal products in 2010.

“Anything that impacts on the Inuit in Nunavut — we have to go out of our way to defend those areas where Inuit are negatively impacted,” said Jack Anawak, who is with Nunavut Tunngavik Incorporated, the Inuit land claims organization in Canada’s eastern Arctic territory of Nunavut.

The Fur Institute of Canada is leading the legal challenge of the ban, with support from seal hunters from Scotland and Inuit from Greenland and Canada.

Anawak said the EU is mainly targeting the organized seal hunt on Canada’s East Coast, but the ban has also affected Inuit despite an exemption for the Inuit hunt. “A lifting of the ban would be helpful and we would hope that’s the case. But keep in mind that we are going to continue to hunt seal anyway,” said Anawak.

In less than a month, Canada will take over the chairmanship of the Arctic Council, where the EU has applied for official observer status. Sealing advocates throughout the Arctic have started petitions to prevent that from happening.

“It became evident that we need to push the parliament to use its status as a permanent state in the Arctic Council to reject the EU’s application into the Arctic Council until such time the seal ban is completely lifted,” said Karliin Aariak, a pro-sealing advocate.

Aarriak said the petitions will be given to Members of Parliament.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.