European Union Opens Door to Inuvialuit Seal

YELLOWKNIFE (MARCH 9, 2017) Inuvialuit-created sealskin products will be an option for fashion-conscious Europeans combatting next year’s winter weather thanks to a long-standing lobbying effort led by the Government of the Northwest Territories (GNWT).

The European Union (EU) has accepted the Northwest Territories’ (NWT) application to accept the Inuvialuit as a Recognized Body under the Indigenous exception to the EU seal products prohibition.

This will provide unencumbered access to the European market for seal products harvested in the Inuvialuit Settlement Region. 

The Department of Industry, Tourism and Investment (ITI) will incorporate the marketing of NWT seal products under the Genuine Mackenzie Valley Fur brand.  In collaboration with Inuvialuit Regional Corporation (IRC), ITI will also be advancing a certification program to promote consumer confidence in European travellers who will now be able to return home with sealskin products purchased in the NWT.

In support of its mandate to advance greater economic diversification for the NWT economy, the GNWT has committed to promoting the products of its traditional economy to international markets.  These efforts further align with GNWT obligations under the Inuvialuit Final Agreement. 

The GNWT collaborated closely with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans in its engagement of the EU.


“This is a considerable achievement under the GNWT’s mandate which will bring valuable economic opportunity and priceless support to important cultural practices for the Inuvialuit people. We look forward to executing on the promise of this new market — the second-largest economy in the world — for the benefit of all seal harvesters and their families.”
-Wally Schumann, Minister of Industry, Tourism and Investment

“Seal products have long been a part of our traditional Inuvialuit culture in providing a sustainable source of food, clothing and income.  As a Recognized Body for selling these products throughout the European Union, our regional harvesters and artisans will now have an additional economic outlet for their work.  We are pleased and ready to expand the marketing efforts of Inuvialuit seal products to Europe. We are also pleased to see that the EU is respecting the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.”
-Duane Ningaqsiq Smith, Chair and CEO of Inuvialuit Regional Corporation

Quick Facts

  • The application was officially accepted February 14, 2017.
  • NWT seal products will also benefit from planned marketing by the Government of Canada in relation to the Canada-EU Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement.
  • 2016 estimates from the International Monetary Fund value the EU’s economy at more than $17 trillion by Gross Domestic Product. 

Relevant links

Media contacts

Drew Williams
Manager, Public Affairs and Communications 
Industry, Tourism and Investment
Government of the Northwest Territories
Ph: (867) 767-9202 ext. 63037