The decision comes following concerns about the poor implementation of the attestation of origin of seal products entering the European market.
The current EU regulation adopted in 2009 allows the trade of sealskin products coming from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit and other indigenous peoples.
The rules, known as the Inuit exemption, recognises the right of remote communities in the Arctic to hunt seals as vital to their subsistence.
Despite the exemption, local communities in Greenland and Canada suffer the consequence of the ban due to a sharp drop in prices of seal products attributed to lack of clear explanation of the exemption.
Many Greenland and Nunavut companies have complained about problems when exporting sealskin products at custom entry points or with manufacturers and customers who often do not know about the exemption.
‘’The lack of education, the lack of understanding of the legislation is a great barrier. People do not understand what it means. Europeans think there is a ban – they do not understand the Inuit exemption and I think it is a responsibility of the Commission to educate them that they can buy seal products from Inuit,’’ says Aaju Peter, an Inuit activist from Nunavut.
Under the new initiative, all seal skin garments and accessories will be marked with a label containing a QR code. When scanned, it would refer to a European Commission website stating in different languages that the product is of Inuit or other indigenous communities’ origin.
‘’We have been working hard to achieve this goal, but it doesn’t mean we are stopping now. With the new QR Code we need marketing and promotion to explain around the world about the life of hunters and indigenous communities in the Arctic,’’ said Karl Kristian Kruse, Minister for Fisheries and Hunting in Greenland, and a seal hunter himself.
The QR Code labels will be issued by certifying bodies authorised by the Commission, and distributed to manufacturers who sew the labels on clothing. Each label will include a short description of the Inuit exemption explaining that the product is certified in accordance with the EU legislation.
‘’This ban has done a lot of damage to indigenous communities, so we have to see how we can come on track again. This QR code is an opportunity to tell the story about the Inuit across Europe. The Commission and the Parliament have to work together to come up with new ideas and effective solutions,’’ said MEP Jørn Dohrmann who hosted the discussion introducing the new label in the European Parliament.
The QR Code labeling scheme comes into effect immediately, and the first labelled seal products will be on the market soon.