Sealing, a Blue Activity?
According to the World Bank, the “Blue Economy” is the “sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and jobs while preserving the health of ocean ecosystem.” Seal products are the perfect example of a Blue Activity. In addition to provide food for local human consumption, sealing allows Northern Indigenous communities to take part in the global economy. Seal products also have a very low environmental footprint:
- Little energy consumption for extraction: dog sledges, snow scooters and sealing boats
- No production chain
- Local transport
- No habitat destruction
- Selective extraction (and management) of species, size -& sex
- Efficient and optimized resource: little waste
The importance of Seals on the Economy
The very existence of Canadian Inuit and Indigenous communities is grounded on their relationship with seals. The practice of hunting connects Inuit to the land which ensures sustainability, the preservation and building of ecological knowledge and conservation efforts.
A recent study estimated the current harvesting economy in Nunavut is worth approximately $40 million annually. Sealing in is not just an industry, it is a lifestyle that helps keep Inuit close to their natural environment. An estimate of over 40,000 seals are harvested per year in Nunavut. The replacement food value of seal meat is worth approximately $5 million. Seal skin products are worth an additional $1 million to the arts and crafts sector. (1)
In Canada’s north, where store-bought meat is expensive, a single ringed seal can provide the equivalent of $200 or more worth of meat to a family—and a much higher level of nutrition.
The impact of the European Ban
The primary market for Canadian seal products pre-ban was the EU.
Top importers of Canadian seal products, 2001 up to Ban:
- Denmark (importing 32,558 pelts);
- Finland (importing 134,015 pelts); and
- Germany (importing 159,765 pelts).
The European Union banned the importation of seal products in 2009. The result was devastating, reducing the number of pelts sold by over 82%. The Ban has eroded confidence and interest in seal products within and outside the EU.
Unfortunately, even with the EU Exemption for Indigenous Seal Products (2), there still exist a lot of confusion and apprehension from buyers that seal products will not be permitted into EU even with proper certification.
Let’s shift the tide in 2021
On December 3rd 2020, Prime Minister Trudeau announced the Government of Canada’s plan to engage with the provinces and territories, Indigenous peoples, industry, conservationists, and all Canadians to develop a Blue Economy Strategy, beginning early in the New Year. The strategy will outline a future vision for Canada’s ocean-related sectors and guide future government actions and investments toward the goal of a sustainable, ocean economy. (3)
2021 is the year where we, Canadians, should shift the tide in favour of the Blue Economy by keeping it local and natural and supporting Indigenous Crafters by purchasing authentic seal products.