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Trade in seal products

sealsSeal hunting occurs in various parts of the world for commercial, subsistence and cultural reasons. Seal hunting is also carried out in some areas for the sustainable management of marine resources. At least 15 seal species are currently hunted, but the majority of hunted animals belong to five species: harp seals, ringed seals, grey seals, hooded seals and Cape fur seals.

The seal populations that are hunted for commercial purposes – an estimated 15 million animals – are generally not endangered. Some 900,000 seals are hunted each year around the globe, with the commercial hunt in Canada, Greenland and Namibia accounting for some 60% of the seals killed each year. Hunting for commercial purposes also takes place in Russia and Norway. Around one third of the world trade in seal products either passes through or ends up in the EU market.

Seal hunts around the world are governed by different rules and regulations. In some countries comprehensive systems are in place, while in others the seal hunt is regulated to a lesser degree. Within the EU, certain methods and means of capture and killing are prohibited in areas protected under EU nature law (the Habitats Directive).

The European Union is concerned about the animal welfare aspects of the seal hunt. Doubts have been expressed about some of the methods used for hunting seals, such as shooting, netting and clubbing, that can cause avoidable pain and distress. Several EU Member States were considering, or had already introduced, national legislative measures to ban the import and use of seal skins and seal products. In the light of these concerns, on 16 September 2009 the European Parliament and the Council adopted a Regulation banning the trade in seal products in the European Union. It applies to seal products produced in the EU and to imported products. The aim of the Regulation is to ensure that products derived from seals are no longer found on the European market. The Regulation was published in the Official Journal on 31 October 2009, entering into force on 20 November 2009. The ban itself entered into force 9 months after the entry into force of the Regulation (i.e. 20 August 2010).

The Regulation foresees limited exemptions to respect the fundamental economic and social interests of Inuit and other indigenous communities. It also contains exceptions for goods derived from seals for personal and non-commercial use and for goods derived from seals hunted for the sole purpose of the sustainable management of marine resources on a not-for profit basis and for non-commercial reasons.

On 10 August 2010, the Commission adopted an implementing Regulation which was published in the Official Journal on 17 August 2010. Like the ban itself, it enters into force on 20 August 2010. This implementing Regulation sets out the conditions for the placing on the Union market of seals products thus ensuring a uniform application of Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009. A stakeholder consultation meeting was held on 18 November 2009 inviting stakeholders at European and International level representing trade, non-governmental organisations and Inuit / Indigenous Communities. For further information, please see documents below.

  • Technical guidance note setting out an indicative list of the codes of the combined nomenclature that may cover prohibited seal products (in accordance with Art. 3(3) of Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009
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  • List of nominated competent authorities in accordance with Art. 9(1) of the Commission Regulation (EU) 737/2010

The following entities comply with the requirements set out in Art. 6 and are therefore included in a list of recognised bodies issuing documents attesting that seal products are compliant with the requirements laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009, unless the import is for personal use or for families:

Existing EU legislation on seals:

Background information

The basic Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 follows a proposal presented by the European Commission on 23 July 2008. The proposal built on a comprehensive assessment as well as on a public consultation held from December 2007 to February 2008. For more details please see the Commission impact assessment report below.

Preparatory legislative process for the basic Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009:

Developing implementing legislation: