EU Seal Product Trade Ban

This proposed Regulation, expected to be adopted by Council shortly, will place a ban on seal products imported to, exported from or transiting through the EU.  Exemptions will be made for aboriginal communities in the Arctic and Subarctic regions and small-scale regulated hunts conducted for the sustainable management of seal populations.
 

Background

The hunting of seals takes place inside and outside the EU. Hunting of seals has led to serious concerns by members of the public, governments as well as the European Parliament over animal welfare practices.

While some Member States already ban the trade in seal products, others have no such provisions, leading to a distortion in the EU internal market. The proposal also needed to address killing methods as well as commercial activities depending on seal species – harp seal and hooded seal pups are already protected by EU legislation. The proposal is based on the need for a harmonised response to the problem. Different market restrictions were examined, such as a labelling requirement, but these were rejected for being unfeasible in practice.

Aims of the Regulation

The main aim of the proposal is to establish harmonised rules prohibiting the trade of seal products in the EU. This proposed Regulation will therefore impose a full ban on seal products with few exemptions.

Market Restrictions on Seal Products

This proposed Regulation will ban the placing on the market of seal products imported to, exported from or transiting through the EU. It applies to products originating in the EU and from 3rd countries. It applies to all species of Pinnipeds, which include seals, sea lions and walruses. The proposal also makes no distinction between adult seals and pups.

The ban will apply to the commercial trade of all processed or unprocessed products derived or obtained from seals, including:

• Meat

• Oil

• Blubber

• Organs

• Raw fur skins fur that is tanned or dressed

• All other articles made from seal fur skins

Exemptions

• Products derived from subsistence hunting of seals by indigenous members of the arctic or subarctic areas - members of the Inupiat, Yupik, Inuvialuit, Kalaallit and Inuit peoples.

• Small-scale hunts for the regulated controlled and sustainable management of seal populations particularly with a view to mitigating the damage occasioned to fish stocks are allowed on a non-profit basis.

• The import of seal products that is of an occasional nature and consists of goods for the personal use of travellers or their families is also allowed. The quantity of such goods must not indicate that they are being imported for commercial reasons.

Reporting Obligations

The Member States will have to submit reports to the Commission every 4 years regarding any measures taken and outlining the progress with the implementation of the Regulation. The Commission must then submit a Report to Parliament and Council on the implementation of the Regulation within a year following the reporting period.

Entry into Force and Implementation of the Regulation

Member States agreed with the European Parliament on a set of amendments before the European Parliament vote on the 5th May 2009, which should ensure a swift adoption by the European Council. Once adopted, this Regulation is expected to enter into force early in 2010. Once in force, Member States will be responsible for the implementation and enforcement of the Regulation. Member States will have to lay down rules for penalties for infringements. These penalties must be effective, proportionate and dissuasive.