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138 Unintended Consequences: The EU Seal Ban and Indigenous Seal Hunters

21 . 09 . 2021


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POLAR NEWSREEL Protection of marine wildlife can result in conflicts with small scale fishing communities. // Protection of marine wildlife can give healthier ecosystems and increased carbon capture by the ocean: meet the sea otter. // More whales equals more carbon storage. // After the decrease in hunting pressure harp seals are increasing in numbers and their population is growing fast

UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES: THE EU SEAL BAN AND INDIGENOUS SEAL HUNTERS In 1964 Radio Canada released a film about hunting harp seals in the Gulf of St Lawrence. The images, later admittedly choreographed and not corresponding to the reality of the hunt, shocked the world and resulted in opposition to this activity. Among the notable opponents we find a baby seal-hugging Brigitte Bardot, one of the icons of the fight to end seal hunting. It took forty years for the EU to deliberate in 2009 what is known as the EU Seal Ban which in practice was a ban on imports of seal products. The ban's wording was at best unfortunate and this caused dire problems for the Inuit and indigenous communities traditionally relying on sealing for nutritional, cultural and spiritual needs especially in Greenland and Canada, and resulted in the 2015 amendment to the regulations. The present EU law allows trade in seal products from "hunts conducted by Inuit or other indigenous communities" and sets a clearer definition criteria among which we find the terms "tradition", "subsistence" and "animal welfare". In spite of the EU public apology, the damage to the Inuit and other indigenous communities of the Arctic might be permanent. Another consequence of the decrease in hunting pressure has been an increase in harp seals numbers and in the area of highest hunting pressure, the Northwest Atlantic, their population has been growing fast.

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