(August 7, 2015 – Hawaii, USA) – The Inuit Circumpolar Council (ICC) is encouraged that Inuit harvested sealskins inNunavut now qualify for an exemption to the European Union’s 2009 ban on seal imports and similar to Greenland’s 2013exemption. Although this is a small victory for all Inuit the whole EU Seal Ban should be scrapped. A great deal of work still needs to be done to protect the rights of Inuit against perversive regulations that erode Inuit rights and cultural identity. Speaking from the 2015 North Pacific Arctic Conference in Hawaii ICC Chair, Okalik Eegeesiak said ”Theexemption will allow sealskin products harvested by Inuit in Nunavut to be sold in the EU however this exemption took such a long time to achieve that the EU market is all but gone and there has been little effort to work with Inuit todevelop other markets such as Asia.”

“The EU did very little to communicate directly with Inuit while negatively impacting our culture and identity as a people.The EU Seal Ban is an animal rights victory over Inuit rights” noted Duane Smith, ICC Canada President. Smith noted“Inuit tried to be part of the negotiations but were not even consulted on the terms of the exemption”. Since 2009, theEU has banned the import of seal products as a result of a relentless public affairs campaign against commercial seal hunting by various environmental groups. The EU ban allowed an exemption of imports from hunts that are certified as being conducted by Inuit in Canada and Greenland. This was overturned by the WTO Appellate Body whose Panel’s finding was that the EU Seal Regime is “necessary to protect public morals” and the exemption for Inuit removed. The EUhad until October 2015 to revise the regulations to allow the exemption for Inuit sealskins which they did July 30, 2015 for Nunavut and in April 2013 for Greenlanders.

Greenlanders humanely harvest approximately 150,000 seals for food and used to sell the skins before the market plummeted as a result of the EU Seal Ban. Scientists say the Greenland seal population could sustain a harvest of 500.000animals. Hjalmar Dahl, ICC Greenland President said, “In Europe seals are culled and burned, while sales of fur from mink raised in cages is at an all time high. It just does not seem “moral”. Greenlanders take pride in their ability to hunt to put food on their families table and seal is highly nutritious. I think the EU needs to better understand Inuit.”

Jimmy Stotts, ICC Alaska President said “We have to do a better job at making the world understand the morals and respect Inuit have for the wildlife we depend on daily and our rights as indigenous peoples. Inuit eat or use every part of the seal which is rich in iron, vitamin C, nutrients and much needed protein. These harvests are important to our communities, our culture and our health and the revenues from the sale of the seal skins provides cash in Inuit regions with limited economic opportunities.”

The threats of climate change, historical commercial harvests and land use changes all impact the sustainability of Arctic wildlife populations and Inuit work closely with governments and conservation organizations to ensure these populations remain healthy. Duane Smith, ICC Canada President offered, “Inuit have a wealth of traditional knowledge about thehealth of the Arctic wildlife we depend upon for our very survival. Inuit have managed these populations for millennia, through natural cycles and declines and recently through forcers from outside like climate change. Inuit will continue to use our knowledge and work with scientists to ensure these populations remain healthy.” ” ICC would like to work withthe EU on developing a market within and beyond the EU for seal products from all Inuit regions and recognize subsistence and sustainable hunting as an indigenous right” concluded the Chair, Okalik Eegeesiak.

For more information:
Carole Simon, ICC Canadacsimon@inuitcircumpolar.comP: 613-563-2642