Seal meat sales were largely banned in the EU on ethical grounds under a 2009 regulation, but the rule was challenged by the Canadian government at the World Trade Organisation (WTO). The ban actually allowed some sales of Inuit-produced meat, but this exemption was shelved while the dispute over the whole ban was ongoing.
The WTO’s Disputes Settlement Body (DSB) appellate body found last May (2014) that the EU ban was legal under world trade rules, but an exemption for meat produced by Inuit hunters was unfair on certain commercial hunts, because the loophole also included meat from hunts designed to reduce the pressure seals impose on fishing stocks.
But a meeting of the WTO’s Disputes Settlement Body (DSB) last Wednesday (25 March) heard that progress was being made and Inuit-produced seal meat may soon be sold in the EU.
An EU representative told the meeting a new rule had been drafted that "removes the exception for maritime resource management hunts and provided for certain modifications to the exception of indigenous communities".
The representative said cooperation with Canada had been "very constructive" and would "hopefully soon result in the setting up of the necessary attestation system for Canadian Inuits to start using the… exemption".
A Canadian government diplomat told the meeting that initial applications to sell seal meat to Europe would come from the main Inuit territory, Nunavut, but could be later made by other northern jurisdictions in the country.
"We also take this opportunity to reiterate that Canada’s seal harvests are humane, sustainable and well-regulated activities that provide an important source of food and income for coastal and Inuit communities," added the diplomat.