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Seal hunt casts chill over EU-Norway relations

Latest update : 2009-04-22

After Canada, Norway, which also hunts seals in large numbers, has threatened to submit a complaint to the WTO if the European Parliament bans the import of products derived from seals. A vote is expected in early May.

AFP - Norway threatened Wednesday to submit a complaint to the World Trade Organisation if the European Union bans the import of seal-related products.

"If the EU decides to introduce a broad ban on the trade of products derived from seals, that will affect our liberty to decide how we manage our own marine resources," Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere and Fisheries Minister Helga Pedersen said in a statement.

"In order to defend Norwegian interests, we have therefore informed the EU that Norway will begin consultations with the WTO if it adopts this ban."

The European Parliament is expected to vote on the ban during its plenary session which began Wednesday in Strasbourg.

At an ambassadors meeting of the EU's 27 member states at the end of March, a majority said they were in favour of a total ban on seal products to protest against hunting methods which they consider cruel.

Canada, which is the biggest seal-hunting country with a quota of 338,000 this year, has already said it plans to file a complaint with the WTO.

Norway has authorised the killing of 47,000 adult seals in 2009 out of a population estimated at eight million in the North Atlantic, judging that the cull is necessary to help protect fish stocks.

The Scandinavian country has insisted that its hunting methods are the most regulated in the world and has proposed that the EU work together with seal-hunting countries to ensure that proper methods are used.

Norwegian seal hunters are only authorised to use rifles and a "hakapik," a kind of pickaxe, in order to "inflict the least amount of suffering as possible on the animals," according to the government.

Oslo expects the European Parliament to vote on the issue in early May.

Date created : 2009-04-22