The Greenland Fisheries and Hunters Organisation KNAPK is appealing to Denmark to raise the issue indigenous rights and an EU ban on seal products, due to a burgeoning seal population in the Arctic regions.
“Hunting seal and sealskin production ensures employment throughout Greenland and in particular in the outlying regions. Seal hunting and skin production helps raise living standards and livelihoods for hunters in our country,” KNAPK Chairman Leif Fontaine tells Sermitsiaq.
The European Union has a ban on imports of sealskin and seal products.
Fontaine says that the EU’s ban has wrecked the worldwide trade in indigenous seal products, but equally importantly is threatening both the seal population and fish stocks in the Arctic regions.
“We are concerned that the import ban on seal products is harming the eco-systems in our waters,” Fontaine says, adding the increasing population of seals is a ‘ticking bomb’ under the Greenland fishing industry.
“Greenland’s Nature Institute has documented that the 17.5 million seals in the North Atlantic at 16 million tonnes of fish and shellfish each year,” Fontaine says.
“At the same time we are seeing emaciated seals across all of the Arctic and are concerned that the seals are dying of hunger,” he adds.
Fontaine adds that Denmark – which took over the rotating presidency of the European Union on Jan. 1, 2012 - is legally bound under Danish Commonwealth rules to secure the livelihoods of indigenous Greenland hunters.
He adds that the EU import ban is a contravention of several clauses of the UN Declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples to which Denmark is also a signatory.
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Edited by Julian Isherwood