The European Union’s high court temporarily exempted Inuit hunters in Canada and Greenland from the new trade ban on seal products, and asked the European Parliament and EU governments to justify the ban.
Indigenous people had argued their livelihoods depend on their ability to hunt seals and export products such as seal meat, pelts, blubber, organs and oil used in producing omega-3 fatty acid supplements.
They said the EU ban on seal products, which went into effect Friday, disproportionately impacted their traditional way of life.
Canada is also suing the EU through the World Trade Organization. Canadian hunters killed an average of 300,000 harp seals annually before the industry began experiencing dramatic drops in catches in recent years. The country’s East Coast sealing industry has struggled amid the global recession, vocal animal rights protests and the European ban.