"It doesn't matter how beautiful your theory is, it doesn't matter how smart you are. If it doesn't agree with experiment, it's wrong." Richard P. Feynman

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Economic Disaster for Inuits

Overpopulation of seals seriously depleting fish stocks

Inuit communities which relied on seal exports for survival are being hard-hit by a ban on seal imports to Europe. So while indigenous Inuits can still hunt seals their market has been destroyed by Greenpeace advocacy from their comfortable city-based lifestyle. Inuits are seeking an overturning of the 2009 ban on European sales.
The week of May 20, a delegation of native Greenlanders descended on the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, advocating for the repeal of a 2009 ban on the import of commercially harvested seal products to Europe.
Since the ban—inspired by the efforts of animal-rights advocacy organizations like Greenpeace—seal pelt exports have dropped 90%. And despite a written exemption for indigenous Inuit hunters, markets across the Arctic, both large-scale commercial and sustainable-use, have crashed, with disastrous effect for Greenland and northern Canada’s coastal Inuit communities.
“You get European tourists up in the Arctic who don’t understand the legislation,” Aaju Peter tells Quartz. Peter is a Greenland-born Inuk (Inuk is the singular form of Inuit) and lawyer who runs a home-based, sealskin garment business out of Toronto. She also advocates for Inuit rights to seal-product commerce and issues related to Arctic waters. “What people don’t understand is that Europeans can buy for their own use,” she explains. “But that doesn’t really matter, because European fashion designers and the rest of the world have stopped using sealskins. The ban crashed the market.The remoteness of Inuit lands only exacerbates misunderstanding. “The world doesn’t understand our geography,” she says. “Ten months of the year, it’s all snow and ice. We can’t grow or raise anything.”
Peter recalls the days before the ban fondly: “When the sealskin was legal and the price was high, the hunters could afford to buy gas and ammunition,” she tells Quartz. Hunters had a product to sell (pelts) that doubled as a means of feeding the family—there is as much iron in a palm-sized portion of seal meat as there is in 56 sausages, Peter told Rabble.”
Aside from decimating the traditional Inuit economy, Europe’s ban has had a terrible effect on regional marine ecology. “The seal population has grown astronomical,” Peter says. “The numbers, conservatively, are between seven and ten million for harp seals.” As evidence, she notes she was recently invited to a meeting with Danish fishermen currently locked in a fierce competition with the bloated seal population. “The seals are consuming 10 million tons of fish a year,” she says.
Europe has attempted to address seal overpopulation, but their methods have only incensed Peter and her fellow advocates further. “In European states, at the same time as they banned the import of commercially hunted seal products, the member states themselves applied for licenses to cull the number of seals!” she says. “The Europeans can understand [seal hunting] when it starts affecting their own needs of livelihood, for instance their fish stock. They totally ignore it when it is far away in Canada.”

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