European seal pelt import ban will hit fur trade already in decline

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2009:
STRASBOURG–The European Parliament is likely to approve a
ban on the import of seal pelts at a May 5, 2009 plenary session,
but is expected to allow Canada and Norway to continue exporting seal
pelts through the European Union member nations to reach markets in
China and Russia.
The ban will also exempt seal products made “for cultural,
educational or ceremonial purposes” by the Inuit people of northern
Information leaked to ANIMAL PEOPLE at deadline indicates
that the draft ban approved on March 2, 2009 by the European
Parliament’s internal market and consumer protection committee was
amended before presentation to the plenary session to mitigate
concerns that Canada and Norway will appeal the legislation to the
World Trade Organization.

Norway on April 22, 2009 joined Canada in threatening to go
to the WTO. If the WTO upheld the Norwegian and Canadian complaint,
the 27 EU member nations could be exposed to trade penalties.
“If the EU decides to introduce a broad ban on the trade of
products derived from seals, that will affect our liberty to decide
how we manage our own marine resources,” declared Norwegian foreign
minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and fisheries minister Helga Pedersen.
“In order to defend Norwegian interests, we have therefore informed
the EU that Norway will begin consultations with the WTO if it adopts
this ban,” Stoere and Pedersen said.
Canadian sealers have a quota of 338,000 landed pelts in
2009, up 55,000 from 2008. Namibia has the second highest sealing
quota, at 85,000. The Norwegian quota is 47,000. Russian sealers
had a 2008 quota of 35,000, but Russian minister of natural
resources Yury Trutnyev on March 11, 2009 announced that Russia has
halted hunting seals under one year old.
The Russian state newspaper Rossisskaya Gazeta reported that
Putin on February 26, 2009 told a cabinet meeting that he personally
considers seal hunting a “bloody industry” that “clearly should have
been banned long ago.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has not recently mentioned the
seal hunt. In an April 13, 2006 letter to a PETA member who
contacted him in his former role as a U.S. Senator from Illinois,
however, Obama stated, “I share your concerns about the Canadian
seal hunt. The United States and European Union have been unified in
their opposition to the slaughter of seals,” Obama wrote, “by
passing legislation decades ago to restrict the sale of seal-based
products within their borders. I certainly believe in the spirit of
these acts; the U.S. should not condone this recent Canadian
action,” expanding the seal hunt and repressing protest.
Obama pledged “to ensure that we take all the necessary steps
to express our outrage” to the Canadian government.
Atlantic Canadian seal pelt sales peaked at $27 million U.S.
in 2006, fell to $10 million in 2007, fell again to $6 million in
2008, and are expected to fall by half in 2009 if the European
import ban is enforced, according to a Canadian Department of
Fisheries and Oceans department analysis.
Other fur sales figures show a similar trend. The
International Fur Trade Federation reported on March 27, 2009 that
global retail fur sales figures fell from $15 billion in 2006-2007
to $13 billion in 2007-2008. U.S. retail fur sales dropped by $2
billion over the same same. Both global and U.S. sales are expected
to be far lower in 2008-2009, due to the depressed world economy.
An unusually warm winter reportedly helped to reduce Moscow
fur sales to the lowest valume in at least 15 years.
The Humane Society of the U.S. estimated that the fur sales
decline has prevented the suffering and death of approximately 10
million fur-bearing animals.

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