The Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT) recognizes the importance of seal to Inuit and Indigenous peoples. Since time immemorial, seal has provided food, warm clothing and oil for their very survival. These cultures have immense respect for seal and waste nothing. This subsistence harvest is primarily for food and oil. Crafters make full use of the seal pelt by creating beautiful, warm seal products for their family and the world to enjoy.
In 2021, the GNWT Seal Certification Program was developed to identify seal products that were harvested and crafted by Inuit or Indigenous peoples of the Northwest Territories (NWT). The GNWT Seal Certification Program ensures that designated seal products meet certification standards of quality, sustainability and traceability, from harvest to market, and are exempt from the European Union (EU) seal products ban.
A seal product carrying a GNWT Seal Certification tag and accompanied by a Certificate of Authentication, shall be deemed to comply with Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009, which allows for the export/import of seal products that result from hunts conducted by Inuit and other Indigenous communities in the NWT. It also allows for the import of goods for the personal use of travellers and their families.
This tag of certification is attached to seal products that meet the guidelines set out by the EU seal regime Regulation (EU) 2015/1775. The GNWT is a Recognized Body that can issue this certification and representatives of the Seal Certification Program can label seal products that meet the exception detailed in these regulations.
Certification Tag Front and Back Certificate of Authentication
Inuit or Indigenous crafts people in the NWT can also use certified seal pelts from Nunavut and Greenland to create seal products that qualify for this exemption. In this case, the seal product would carry a certification tag denoting the origin and certification of the seal pelt.
In 2009, the EU introduced the EU seal regime with Regulation (EC) No 1007/2009 (the Basic Regulation), which introduced a general ban on the placing of seal products on the EU market.
On October 13, 2015, the Basic Regulation was amended by Regulation (EU) 2015/1775 in order to reflect the outcomes of World Trade Organization (WTO) rulings in the EC Seal Products Case. This exception to the general ban was introduced to acknowledge the important role that the seal hunt has for the socio-economy, nutrition, culture and identity of the Inuit and other Indigenous communities, where seal contributes to subsistence and development, provides food and income to support the life and sustainable livelihood of the community, as well as preserves and continues the traditional existence of the community.
As a result, the current EU seal regime provides for two exceptions to the ban, which allows seal products that come from hunts conducted by Inuit or other Indigenous communities to be:
- Placed on the EU market for commercial purposes.
- Imported to the EU by travellers or their families for personal use.
Seal products entering the EU in accordance of these exceptions shall be accompanied by a document attesting compliance with the conditions set out in the "Inuit or other Indigenous communities exception", issued by a body recognized for that purpose. On February 14, 2017, in accordance with Article 3 of Regulation (EU) 2015/1850, the European Commission granted recognized body status to the GNWT enabling them to issue documentation to accompany seal products for placement on the EU market.
More information on the trade in seal products can be found on the European Commission website.