EU moves to ban seal products


Mercedes Grandin, SeafoodSource contributing editor

Published on
March 2, 2009

The Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) ProtectSeals campaign, launched in 2005, is gaining momentum in support of banning seal hunting in Canada and worldwide, according to the animal-rights organization. The campaign is centered around a boycott on Canadian seafood products.
"The goal in launching the boycott was to convince Canada's fishing industry to take action to shut down the commercial seal hunt," said Rebecca Aldworth, director of Human Society International Canada.
The ProtectSeals campaign received a boost this week when a European Parliament committee backed a proposal for a partial ban on the import of seal products. Supporters hope the ban is passed by April, while Denmark, Sweden and Finland are opposed to the ban and Canada and Greenland are threatening to challenge the ban before the World Trade Organization.
Currently, more than 5,000 restaurants, seafood distributors, grocery stores and others have pledged to boycott Canadian seafood until seal hunting ends. Participants include: Whole Foods Markets, Trader Joe's, Lowes Food Stores, Legal Sea Foods, Oceanaire Seafood Room, Margaritaville Cafés, Ted's Montana Grill and Bon Appétit Management Co.
HSUS said it continues to promote and gain support for the boycott.
"We just came back from Sundance where celebrity Nigel Barker showed a seal hunt documentary at an event put on by Bon Appétit. Iron Chef Cat Cora was also there in support," said Patricia Ragan, director of the Humane Society's ProtectSeals campaign. "We're up in Canada now to document the birth of baby seals before the hunt begins in early March. At the Genesis Awards in L.A. on 28 March, we'll recognize celebrities who've brought attention to the seal hunt this year."
Before the presidential inauguration in January, 150 restaurants in Washington, D.C., joined the ProtectSeals campaign.
"The momentum is building unbelievably. Every day we're getting new pledges from restaurants and retailers," Ragan said.
The campaign and outreach efforts seem to be making a difference. Canadian snow crab exports to the U.S. market have dropped 44 percent since 2005.
"Over 65,000 seals were saved last year as a result of lower prices. Prices may fall even lower this year due to the anticipated trade ban. We're hoping the economic equation will favor ending the seal hunt," Aldworth said. "Due to pressure by the U.S. (Canada's top seafood importer) and the closure of crucial markets for seal products around world, the Canadian government may soon have to end the commercial seal hunt to protect relations with other nations around the world."
Currently, 11 countries around the world either ban or intend to ban traded seal products: the United States, Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Austria, France, Luxembourg, Croatia, Slovenia and Czech Republic.
Gail Shea, Canada's fisheries and ocean minister, defended her country's seal hunt.
"Canada has made numerous attempts to set the facts straight about the Canadian seal hunt and we have provided ample evidence of the humaneness and sustainability of the hunt. Unfortunately, this evidence is not yet understood in Europe," she said.

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