Greenland allows import of Canadian seal pelts

Fur clothing firm needs more material

By JANE GEORGE

The Greenland Home Rule government decided last week to cancel its Jan. 6 order that prevented the Great Greenland company from buying Canadian sealskins.

The fur company needs “full freedom of action in its efforts to make optimum use of its tannery capacity, a necessity for generating a profit,” the Home Rule government said in a May 19 news release.

“As a supplement to the purchases in Greenland, Great Greenland A/S should consequently be allowed to buy Canadian skins again — if required,” the news release said.

Great Greenland is a government-owned firm that makes high-fashion sealskin garments in Qaqorqtoq.

In recent years, capacity at its tannery in Qaqortoq has increased to 150,000 skins annually, an increase that Greenland says is needed to keep the company competitive on the world market.

At the end of April, purchases in Greenland were 10 per cent below its 2005 level.

Recent years’ purchases have shown that Greenlandic supplies of sealskins fluctuate substantially from year to year.

For this reason, Greenland says Great Greenland should be able to use Canadian skins as a supplement “in the years when stocks cannot be replenished by Greenlandic skins.”

“The weather in particular greatly affects the size of Greenlandic skin purchases, and here purchases of Canadian skins may help ensure stable supplies to the tannery, and thus help maintain and improve the company’s competitiveness.”

This will benefit Greenlanders, said the news release, because an economically healthy Great Greenland will be able to keep buying pelts from Greenlandic hunters at a good price.

The Home Rule Ministry of Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture also notes in the release that Canada has sensible regulations on hunting methods, drawn up in close cooperation with biologists, veterinarians, weapons experts and seal hunters.

And it says the seal-hunting in Canada is subject to strict and extensive control measures, which has led to the use of effective and humane killing methods.

“The use of seals as a resource is widely based on economically and biologically sustainable principles, for which reason it is recommended that buying Canadian skins should be allowed again,” the release said.

Greenland and Canada should join forces to maintain and develop seal hunting in remote coastal communities where alternative income opportunities are limited, the news release suggests.

The short-lived ban on Canadian pelts started on Jan. 6, when Hans Enoksen, Greenland’s premier, ordered Great Greenland to stop buying Canadian sealskins.

That’s because of a media-generated furor that broke out in Denmark after a Danish television network aired video footage on Jan. 5 — supplied by the Humane Society of the United States — that purported to show violent scenes from the 2005 Newfoundland seal hunt.

Enoksen’s home rule government imposed the restriction after getting email from the Danish justice minister, who faced political pressure in Copenhagen.

Aaqaluk Lynge, chair of the Inuit Circumpolar Conference in Greenland, told Nunatsiaq News in January that the Greenlandic government’s decision was a hasty over-reaction, and a misguided attempt to protect Greenland’s seal skin industry from the animal rights movement.

The right way to protect Inuit seal hunters, Lynge said, is for all Arctic leaders to form a common front, and he said Canada and Greenland should form a partnership to promote the sustainable development of seals and other resources.

Later, a delegation from Nunavut also visited Nuuk in an effort to change the order.

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