Seal hunting occurs in various parts of the world for commercial, subsistence and cultural reasons. At least 15 seal species are 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 according to the 2008 impact assessment– are generally not endangered.
However, EU citizens were concerned with animal welfare aspects of the seal hunt. At the time 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.
Due to these concerns, on 16 September 2009 the European Parliament and the Council adopted a Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 on trade in seal products, thus banning the trade in seal products in the European Union. In order to ensure a uniform application of Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009, the implementing Commission Regulation (EU) No 737/2010 was then adopted.
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 also prohibited in areas protected under the EU Habitats Directive.