Inuvialuit exempted from European Union seal product import ban

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Canada will celebrate its first National Seal Products Day this Saturday

The Inuvialuit can, once again, sell seal skins and seal fur fashions to Europeans.

The Northwest Territories government announced on Thursday that the European Union has accepted that the Inuvialuit should be exempted from a ban it imposed seven years ago on the importing of any seal products.

"It re-opens a market of at least 400 million people," said Duane Smith, chair of the Inuvialuit Regional Corporation.

"I think most EU representatives realize we're harvesting these things on a sustainable basis, primarily for our food and to maintain our culture first and foremost."

The territorial government said it will market Inuvialuit fur products as part of its Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur marketing program. It and the IRC  are also developing a certification program for Inuvialuit seal products to give Europeans confidence that they will be able to take home any products they purchase in the Northwest Territories.

Smith says the certification program is being developed with increasing cruise ship tourism in mind. He says many of the passengers are from European Union countries.

Nunavut won a similar exemption a year and a half ago.

In January, the federal government provided $150,000 to help revive Nunavut's seal hunting industry. In a separate but related move, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami failed to convince European courts that the ban in unlawful.

The European Union imposed the ban in 2010. It targeted large commercial seal hunting, such as the Newfoundland seal hunt, claiming such hunts are inhumane.