The World Trade Organisation has been reassured by Kazakhstan, Russia and Belarus that they will impose a ban on the import and export of seal skins from Greenland and Canada.
The organisation hopes that the commercial hunting of the animals, a practice common in Greenland and Canada, will effectively be halted by the agreement.
The decision was made to protect sea mammals, with seal hunting categorised as a particularly harsh form of hunting. Russia is the biggest buyer of seal skins and whale calves skins, which are mainly supplied by Canada.
Maria Vorontsova, the director of the Moscow IFAW (International Fund for Animal Protection), said the ban was urgent due to the inhumane treatment of animals, particularly in Canada.
“Canadian seal hunters catch and kill [pups] under one year old, to be more exact, from 2 weeks to 3 months old,” Vorontsova told the Voice of Russia. “Thus, there’s reason to believe that seal hunting is cruel and inexpedient. Canada keeps saying that 90 percent of the seal skin market is in Russia.”
“And I’m very happy to say that Russia, which banned seal hunting in 2009, made another step and imposed a ban on the import of seal skins. Thus, the Union of Belarus, Kazakhstan and Russia, which have joined the countries, where a ban on the import of seal skins is in force, has made a very important step,” Vorontsova added.
A ban on the sale of seal products has also been approved by the European Parliament, although there will be exceptions for certain small indigenous communities in Russia, Greenland, Canada and Alaska. European visitors will still be able to purchase souvenirs made from the animal products as long as they are not for resale.