03:19 GMT +326 September 2017
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    EU bans import, sale of seal products

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    MOSCOW, May 5 (RIA Novosti) - The European Parliament voted on Tuesday to ban the import and trade of all seal products within the European Union, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said on its website.

    The organization said in a statement that it "applauded the decision as a significant victory in IFAW's 40-year campaign to end Canada's commercial seal hunt."

    "The parliament has hammered the final nail in the coffin of the sealing industry's market in the EU," IFAW EU director Lesley O'Donnell said. "From Mexico City to Milan and all the way to Moscow, the world is uniting in opposition to commercial seal hunts."

    The ban does not concern the sale of products made by Inuit and other indigenous peoples.

    "A complete collapse of Canada's commercial seal hunt may now be inevitable," O'Donnell said.

    Prices for seal pelts have dropped by half from their 2008 price to $12.

    The ban comes a month after another victory for IFAW in its campaign to eradicate commercial seal hunting. In early March, Russia introduced a complete ban on the hunting of harp seal cubs under one year of age in the White Sea.

    The population of seals in the White Sea region was estimated at 3-3.5 million during the first such count in 1928. By the 1950s, the seal population in the region had halved, falling to 1-1.5 million, and within just over a decade had dwindled to 500,000 seals, mainly due to extensive hunting and the melting of ice.

    In 2008, the estimated number of seals in the region stood at between 109,000 and 123,000.

    "IFAW's focus now shifts to Canada where Canadian Senator Mac Harb recently introduced a bill to end commercial sealing," the organization said.

    The head of the World Wildlife Fund's Russian marine programs' department, Konstantin Zgurovsky, gave the ban a cautious welcome.

    "There are concerns that it [the ban] might shift the focus from other fundamental problems that threaten the population of seals. Great damage is done by climate change, melting ice and navigation," he said.

    Canada, which has the world's largest commercial hunting quotas of up to 280,000 seals, and Norway said they would address the World Trade Organization to protect their interests.

    Canada stopped the commercial hunting of whitecoats, or two-week old baby seals, after Western European countries introduced a ban on such products in 1986.

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