The EU seal ban adopted in 2009 is destroying the sealskin market and undermining the traditional way of life of thousands of indigenous people who depend on marine resources for their livelihood. “For centuries, seal hunting is part of the culture of numerous local communities living in the High North. The European Parliament has repeatedly voiced concern towards sealing but sealing means a lot for these people.” argued MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher, Member of the Standing Committee of Arctic Parliamentarians and host of the briefing “The impact of the EU seal ban on the Inuit populations.”
“Greenlanders live in harmony with nature and have always exploited seals in a sustainable manner so that future generations can enjoy and benefit from their richness.” said Ane Hansen, Greenlandic Minister for Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture.
The fundamental economic and social interests of indigenous people are adversely affected by the EU ban. Despite the exemption of the EU ban for the Inuits, Greenland has stored about 290.000 sealskins as a result of an alarming decrease in sales. To close the knowledge gap on indigenous people rights and the exemption, ambitious information campaign in Europe and worldwide is more than ever needed.                                              
“The EU seal ban is a violation of the Declaration on Indigenous Peoples Rights the 27 Member States are part of. Greenlandic hunters can therefore ask for financial compensation.” stated Leif Fontaine, Chairman for the Greenlandic Fishermen and Hunters Organization.
The increasing seals population is creating a worrying imbalance in natural resources. According to the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources, the 17.5 million seals located in the North Atlantic consume 16 million tones of fish annually, thus jeopardizing significantly the conservation of fisheries resources.
The economic impact for the Greenlandic society is also significant with a severe employment decrease in tannery and traders’ companies. Lars Berg CEO from the tannery company Great Greenland informed that they are working towards creating a labelling system giving guarantees that the best standards related to sustainable use of the seals are respected.
“We should ensure that sealing remains an important source of jobs and income, especially in the most remote areas like the Arctic.” concluded MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher.
The hearing was organised by the European Bureau for Conservation and Development at the request of MEP Pat the Cope Gallagher following his visit last year to Greenland, when he made a commitment to host this event.