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Brussels/Strasbourg, 5 May 2009
The Commission welcomes today's vote by the European Parliament confirming the first reading agreement reached between Council and Parliament on an EU Regulation banning the trading of seal products within and into the European Union. The aim of the regulation is to ensure that products derived from seals hunted for commercial purposes are no longer found on the European market.
European Commissioner for the Environment Stavros Dimas said: "After many years of campaigning by European citizens I welcome the regulation which bans seal products from entering or being traded in the European Union. By upholding the highest standards the new legislation addresses EU citizens' concerns with regard to the cruel hunting methods of seals. "
Ban on seal products in the EU
The text agreed by the Council and the European Parliament in first reading reflects Europeans' profound attachment to seals as sentient mammals capable of experiencing pain, distress and suffering. Tens of thousands of Europeans have sent letters to the European Commission, the European Parliament and national governments expressing their concerns about seal hunting.
The aim of the new EU legislation is to regulate the internal market and to address EU citizens' concerns on the welfare of seals during commercial hunts. The regulation bans the placing on the market and the importing into the European Union of seal products for commercial purposes.
The new EU measures eliminate the disparate national rules in force and consolidate the fragmented European market in seal products. However, trade in seal products will be allowed for seal products derived from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and other indigenous communities and which contribute to their subsistence.
Seal hunting in the world
The 30 species of seals are usually found along the coasts of polar and sub-polar regions of the globe, but some can also be found in some temperate regions. Of all these species, some 15 are targeted for hunting and represent an estimated population of 15-16 million seals. Seal hunting occurs year round, but the hunting season varies according to the region and the species targeted.
Seals are hunted mainly for their skin, fat, and meat, but there is a rising market for omega-3 capsules containing seal oil. The methods used to kill seals and their effectiveness vary considerably. These include shooting seals with bullets, clubbing, and catching them in traps and nets. Those methods have raised serious concerns among citizens in the EU with regard to the animal welfare aspects.