(NOTE: Great Greenland's homepage has since June/July 2006 been closed down)
Below you will find updates and background information that will givean overview - but these are not exhaustive. Danish readers can find more information on Greenlandic news web sites, e.g., www.knr.gl and www.sermitsiaq.gl.
ECOADVISE COMMENT in DANISH PRESS ON PROPOSED EU SEALSKIN BAN 31.07.2008
GREAT GREENLAND INTENDT TO START COMMERCIAL SEAL PUP HUNTING 18.04.2007, 11
SUFFICIENT MEP SIGNATURES 7.9.2006, 12
EU BAN IS GAINING SUPPORT FROM EPs 7.7.2006, 16
EU BAN WILL NOT COVER GREENLANDIC SEAL SKINS6.6.2006, 16
af Carl Schlyter, Paulo Casaca, Karl-Heinz Florenz, Mojca Drèar Murko og
Caroline Lucas, Europa-Parlamentet, der henviser til forretningsordenens artikel 116:
A. der henviser til, at mere end halvanden million grønlandssælunger er blevet nedslagtet i det nordvestlige Atlanterhavsområde i de seneste fire år, og at størstedelen af de pågældende sælunger var mindre end tre måneder gamle,
B. der henviser til, at sælbestanden blev reduceret med to tredjedele, sidste gang et tilsvarende antal sæler blev nedslagtet i 1950'erne og 1960'erne,
C. der henviser til, at gennemsnitligt mindre end 5 % af sælfangernes indkomst stammer fra sælfangst, som kun rækker til få dages arbejde hvert år,
D. der henviser til, at et hold internationale dyrlæger konkluderede, at 42 % af de nedslagtede sæler, som dyrlægerne undersøgte, kan være blevet flået, mens de stadig var ved fuld bevidsthed,
E. der henviser til, at der i 1983 blev indført forbud mod i EF import af sælskind og sælskindsprodukter fra grønlandssæler (whitecoat) og klapmydssæler (83/129/EØF); at sælfangere nu venter nogle dage, indtil grønlandssælerne har skiftet pels, og at produkter fra disse dyr stadig importeres til EU,
F. der henviser til, at en række EU-lande (Belgien, Luxembourg og Italien) allerede har taget skridt til at forbyde handelen med sælprodukter, og at andre lande (Det Forenede Kongerige og Nederlandene) overvejer at iværksætte lignende foranstaltninger,
G. der henviser til, at USA, Mexico og Kroatien har indført forbud mod handelen med sælprodukter,
H. der henviser til, at Europarådet for tiden overvejer at fremsætte et forslag om indførelse af forbud mod import og udnyttelse af sæler og dele heraf,
1. anmoder Kommissionen om ufortøvet at udarbejde et forslag til forordning om forbud mod import, eksport og salg af alle sælprodukter fra grønlandssæler og klapmydssæler;
2. anfører, at en sådan forordning ikke bør indvirke på den traditionelle inuitsælfangst, som imidlertid kun tegner sig for 3 % af den globale sælfangst;
3. pålægger sin formand at sende denne erklæring med angivelse af underskrivernes navne til Rådet og Kommissionen."
DANISH MINISTER OF JUSTICE OPPOSE GREENLAND'S DECISION25.5.2006, 21
In an interview broadcasted by the national Danish TV station DR the Danish Minister of Justice, Lene Espersen, Conservative, said that Greenland's decision to allow import and trade with Canadian seal pup skins were very questionable. The minster called upon Greenland to rethink the decision and said that it very well could mean an end to the Greenlandic seal skin trade. She was backed by the Danish member of the EU Parliament Mrs. Gitte Seeberg, also from the Conservative party.
According to DR the Danish Ministry of Forerign Affairs are currently looking at how a eventual import ban may be implemented.
GREENLAND GOVERNMENT SAY YES TO CANADIAN SEAL PUP SKINS
The Greenlandic Homerule Government today decided to permit the homerule owned seal skin trader Great Greenland to import and process Canadian seal pup skins again. In the weeks before this decision the Greenlandic minister of finance has said that Greenland will not question Canadian seal hunting methods. The Homerule has not extempted seal pup skins from clubbed seals from the permit.
Todays press release:
Cancellation of recommendation of 6 January 2006 to Great Greenland A/S on a provisional stop on purchases of Canadian seal skin
On 19 May 2006, the Greenland Home Rule Government decided to cancel the recommendation of 6 January 2006 made to Great Greenland A/S regarding a provisional stop on purchases of Canadian seal skin.
The Home Rule Government assessed that the company should regain full freedom of action in its efforts to make optimum use of its tannery capacity, a necessity for generating a profit. In recent years, capacity at the tannery in Qaqortoq has increased to 150,000 skins annually, an increase needed to keep the company competitive on the world market.
As a supplement to the purchases in Greenland, Great Greenland A/S should consequently be allowed to buy Canadian skins again – if required. At the end of April, purchases in Greenland were 10% below the 2005 level. Recent years’ purchases have shown that Greenlandic supplies of seal skins may fluctuate substantially from year to year, for which reason Great Greenland A/S should be able to use Canadian skins as a supplement in the years when stocks cannot be replenished by Greenlandic skins. (...)
The hunting of seals in Canada is subject to strict and extensive control measures, which has lead to the use of effective and humane killing methods, approved by the NAMMCO member countries.
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. In this respect, it is also paramount that Greenland and Canada join forces to maintain and develop seal hunting in remote coastal communities where alternative income opportunities are limited.
Minister for Fisheries, Huntingand Agriculture
GREAT GREENLAND LIED ABOUT CANADIAN SEAL SKINS
Michael Køllgaard Nielsen, managing director of the Homerule owned seal skin company Great Greenland (GG), changed explanation about the export of the Canadian seal pup skins. To the Greenlandic weekly, Sermitsiaq, Mr. Nielsen now says that GG also sold Canadian seal pup skins from the compyany's sales office in Copenhagen. According to Mr. Nielsen this took place “until last year” (i.e. 2005).
The new information confirm the accusations made by a former financial director of GG in an open letter published two weeks ago.
Both the GG's chairman of the board, Anders Brøns and the managing director, Mr. Nielsen, has otherwise since January repeatedly said and underlined that all Canadian seal pup skins were exported directly to the Far East. Now, this shows not to be correct.
How many of the Canadian skins that were sold in Denmark, are still not known.
Great Greenland established a sub-company named "Phoca A/S" when the company began the trade with Candian seal pup skins back in 2002. However, Phoca A/S was dissolved shortly after according to the company register of the Danish Ministry of Economic and Bussiness Affairs. Further, no brand name or any logo for "Phoca" has been registered by the Danish Patent and Trademark office.
Danish national broadcasting cooperation DR yesterday reported about the alleged fraud with Canadian seal skins. The former accounts manager Jacob Abelsen was interviewed and said that he could not accept that the thruth were not told. According to Abelsen Canadian seal skins were also sold in Denmark in 2003 and 2004. This contradict explanations given by both the managing director and the chairman of the board of Great Greenland. Both have repeatedly said to Greenlandic and Danish media that all Canadian seal pup skins have been exported directly to the Far East under the brand name: Phoca.
Greenlandic press reported yesterday about an open letter from former accounts manager of Great Greenland, Mr. Jacob Abelsen. The letter is addresses to the Greenlandic Premier Minister but has also been submitted to the press.
In the letter, dated 6th March 2006, Mr. Abelsen explains how the board of the publicly owned company has been denied information from the managing director Mr. Køllgaard Nielsen about skin trade and export. Abelsen reveal how Canadian skins are also used to cover a great surplus from trade with Greenlandic skins. In addition, Mr. Abelsen also state that it is not true when Great Greenland claims that all the Canadian seal pup skins have been re-exported to the Far East. Many of the Canadian skins was up to April 2005 also sold to Danish skin traders from the Great Greenland sales office in Glostrup.
Following these new accusations, Hans Enoksen, the Greenlandic prime minister repeated yesterday that an investigation is still not needed into Great Greenland's transaction.
According to the Greenlandic newspaper AG/Grønlandsposten published today, the Homerule Government has now decided to ask Great Greenland some questions. A letter has been submitted to Great Greenland and is based on "issues raised by the media that we can not ignore". Among other things one issue is whether Great Greenland mix Canadian and Greenlandic seal skins when they are exported. Great Greenland has on many occassions denied this and said that the Canadian skins are exported to China and the Far East under another brand: "Phoca". According to the Mr. Kaj Kleist, director of the Homerule administration, the cabinet of homerule ministers have also seen a video of "piles of seal skins on the waste dump in Qaqortoq". The letter also contains questions about claimed mis-use of funds according to AG/Grønlandsposten.
GREAT GREENLAND SAYS CANADIAN SKINS FETCH HIGHER PRICES 26.2.
KNR Radio’s news magasine broadcasted on the 25th February 2006 contains an interview with Mr. Anders Brøns, who is chairman of the board in Great Greenland. Mr. Brøns want a full excuse from the homerule government after the accusations about financial fraud made by Home Rule minister for hunting and fishery Mr Finn Karlsen the other day.
In addition Mr. Brøns explains that the supplies of seal skins from Greenland are dominated by Ringed Seals. Mr. Brøns explain that these skins are not as attractive on the international fur market as the skins from the Canadian harp seal pups. He also explains that Great Greenland’s involvement in the trade with the Canadian seal pup skins generates a larger surplus than Greenlandic skins. The chairman underlined that all the Canadian harp seal skins are sold and exported to China.
TWO PARTIES STILL WANT INVESTIGATION OF GREAT GREENLAND 25.2.
In yesterdays edition of the Greenlandic weekly, Sermtisiaq, a leading MP of Attasut still wants a full investgation of Great Greenland. Attasut is one of three coalition partners in the current Greenlandic homerule government. The MP and mayor, Mrs. Augusta Salling said that an investigation is needed in light of all the rumours about fraud and skin swopping.
Later the opposition party member and MP, Mr. Jens B. Frederiksen, the Democrats, released a statement saying that an investigation will be in the interess of Great Greenland to remove all doubts and rumours.
"NO CASE - END OF STORY" CONCERNING GREAT GREENLAND 23.2.
Yesterday evening Greenlandic radio, KNR reported that the news that broke about alleged fraud and changing of skins in Great Greenland where unfounded. According to the Greenlandic Prime minister and the chairman of the board of Great Greenland the managing director has not been released from his position and there will be no investigation into the transactions of the company. - We are fully behind the director, says chaiman Mr. Anders Brøns after a board meeting today.
On top of this the Greenlandic Prime minister Mr. Hans Enoksen say that only he of all the ministers can comment on issues concerning Great Greenland.
Then, Mrs. Ellen Kristoffersen, chaiman of the Greenland parliament's financial commission, denounced her own statements from yesterday afternoon. The financial committee has not received any information about Great Greenland - only Mrs. Kristoffersen personally. Another member of the committee, Mr. Tommy Marø from the Siumut party expressed that this is "end of story".
Allegations against Great Greenland was made yesterday in Greenlandic press by Homerule minister for fishery and hunting, Mr. Finn Karlsen and MP Mrs. Ellen Kristoffersen, both from the Attasut party. Attasut is one of three coalition partners in the current Greenlandic homerule government.
Yesterday Greenlandic radio, KNR reported that the managing director of Great Greenland Mr. Michael Køllgaard Nielsen was released from his position after "reliable information" about fraud with public funds. The accusations were made by Homerule minister Mr. Finn Karlsen and chairman of the financial parliamentary committee, Mrs. Ellen Kristoffersen. Karlsen and Kristoffersen are both member of Attasut party, one of the three parties in the current Greenlandic government coalition.
This afternoon KNR reports that the Greenlandic Premier Mr Hans Enoksen is denouncing Finn Karlsen by saying that the Homerule has not ordered an investigation into Great Greenland.
The Greenlandic cabinet held an extraordinary meeting this morning according to KNR. After this meeting, Mr. Josef Motzfeldt from IA, another of coalition parties, said that he was evaluating the party's future role in the Homerule government.
Furthermore, a KNR journalist met the managing director of Great Greenland, Mr. Køllgaard Nielsen in Nuuk airport. The director said he had not been instructed to leave his job and where in town on official duty. Mr. Nielsen refused to comment more on the case but said that in light of the circumstances he will look for legal assistance.
Yesterday Greenlandic radio, KNR reported that the managing director of Great Greenland, Mr. Michael Køllgaard Nielsen was released from his position after "reliable information" about fraud with public funds within the government owned company. The Homerule minister for fishery and hunting Mr. Finn Karlsen revealed these new allegations against the company during a speach to the parliamentry assembly in Nuuk yesterday.
In an KNR radio interview with Ms Ellen Kristoffersen, the chairman of the Greenlandic parliament's financial commitee, she told the reporter that various reliable sources have come forward with information about doubtfull financial transactions within Great Greenland. One informer has reported to her about changing Greenlandic seal skins out with the Canadian seal pup skins, according to Kristoffersen. If this means that the politician suspects Great Greenland's luxury furs are made of Canadian seal pup skins in stead of Greenlandic seal skins is not known.
Great Greenland receives DKK 31 mio (c. USD 4.5 mio) annually in public funds to support Greenland's inuit seal hunters.
The new information comes after the story about Great Greenland's annual trade with 45-50,000 Canadian seal pup skins broke out in Danish press early in January 2006.
The Greenlandic cabinet held an extraordinary meeting this morning according to KNR.
Shortly after the story of Great Greenland's trade with Canadian seal pup skins broke in Danish press, Greenlandic ICC president and former Greenlandic MP, Mr. Aqqaluk Lynge distanced himself from the Canadian sealers by saying that "New Foundlanders use nature as a slaughter house". But Mr. Lynge then changed his mind and instead clamied that the decision made by the Greenlandic government to stop trade with Canadian seal skins was wrong. To Nunatsiaq News he later said: "The way that this case was handled by the Greenland home rule government was very unfortunate". ICC now supports the Canadian seal pup hunt made by fishermen that are not inuits.
GREENLANDIC SEAL HUNTERS OPPOSE IMPORT 27.1.2006, 9
The professional hunters association in Greenland, KNAPK oppose the decision to allow import of seal skins from Nunavut. In are press release issued on 25th January KNAPK says that they support the government's desicion to ban import from Canada. KNAPK say that Greenlandic hunters can meet the demand for seal skins.
Following a meeting in Nuuk today between ministers of Nunavut, Canada and the Greenlandic government, the Greenlanders decided that the trade stop does not cover seal skins from Nunavut. The Greenlandic radio, KNR the Greenlandic Prime minister Mr. Hans Enoksen repeated that Greenland oppose the killing of seals with clubs and hakapiks. Mr Enoksen then stressed that Great Greenland can buy seal skins in Nunavut since the seal here are killed with rifles just as in Greenland.
Greenland's national broadcasting station, KNR yesterday reported about the Greenlandic trade with canadian seal pup skins. A Greenlandic fur designer was very concerned and said that Greenlandic skins are the best. Aqqaluk Lynge, president of ICC blames it all on EcoAdvise and says that it is all part of a campain to stop Greenlandic seal skin export. KNR did not try get any comments from EcoAdvise about the claimed smear campaign. The programme then interviewed the chairman of the Financial Committee of the Greenlandic parliament, Ms. Ellen Christoffersen. Ms. Christoffersen wanted a full investigation of Great Greenland's use of public funds and the dumping of Greenlandic seal skins.
ICC is the international inuit organisation. The Greenlandic branch receives more than DKK 5 mio annually in public support from the Greenlandic Home rule.
EYE WITNESS: 6,000 SEAL SKINS LEFT TO ROT 12.1.2006, 00Greenland's national broadcasting station, KNR today brought a report from an eye witness that saw truckloads of Greenlandic seal fur skins beeing thrown at the waste dump by Great Greenland in Qaqortoq, South Greenland. The eye witness, Mr. Ole Jørgen Davidsen is a local seal skin trader himself and he told in the radio interview that more than 6,000 seal skins were left to rot in October 2005.
GREENLAND SAY NO MORE TRADE WITH CANADIAN SEAL PUP SKINS!
Greenlandic Premier Minister Hans Enoksen has just informed the Danish and Greenlandic press that the cabinet on a meeting today in Nuuk has decided to stop all Great Greenland's trade with Canadian seal skins.
About the Canadian use of clubs/hakapiks in the killing of seal pups, Mr. Enoksen say: "this hunting method can not be tolerated". With this decision Greenland made a complete U-turn within 23 hours after the Greenlandic seal skin pup trade was revealed in Danish press. Enoksen continues: "Great Greenland's production must be based on traditional hunting methods on seals from Greenland as it has always been".
About 12-15 percent of the Canadian seal pup skin export was bought by Great Greenland in 2005.
Greenland's Home Rule Government is selling the skins of Canadian seal pups as young as 12 days old through Great Greenland.
Nearly half of the Canadian seal pups are still being clubbed to death and the corpses are left on the ice to rot.
The sustainability of Great Greenland's seal skin trade is now questioned in Danish press. In the end this could harm the income of the inuit hunters if consumers start a boycot against seal furs again.
The seal pup skins are traded by Great Greenland A/S that is 100 percent owned by the Greenlandic Home Rule Government.
Great Greenland received more than DKK 30 millions annual in public funding from the Greenlandic Home Rule in 2005.
To a growing extent, Greenland's Home Rule Government is buying sealskins in Canada through its sealskin company, Great Greenland A/S, and reselling them on the international market.
An unknown percentage of these skins come from seal pups as young as 14 days old that are clubbed to death on the ice in the Gulf of St. Lawrence and off the coast of Newfoundland by Canadian trappers.
Aobout half of Great Greenland's turnover of skins and skin products come from Canadian seal pups. There is no information on this on the company's web site or in its accounts.
Tax-payers in Greenland and Denmark are to a great extent helping to finance this trade in Canadian seal pup skins. Great Greenland A/S receives more than DKK 30 million annually in the form of a public grant from Greenland's Home Rule Government. As much as 60 percent of the Greenland national budget is financed through a Danish block grant in excess of DKK 3.6 billion. Danish tax-payers are therefore indirectly financing the slaughter of these seals.
For many years, Greenland's Home Rule Government has actively attempted to distance itself from Canadian seal hunting in order to secure its own exports.
Great Greenland trade Canadian seal pup skin
According to the Greenland press (AG/Grønlandsposten), Great Greenland A/S bought its first Canadian skins in 2002 at a price of just over DKK 119,000. When it rapidly became evident that these skins were of high quality, purchases in 2003 grew to DKK 20 million, which corresponds to approximately 50,000 sealskins. This figure should be seen in relation to the number of seals purchased in Greenland, which amounted to 70,000 skins in 2004.
The growth in imports from Canada simply appears to be continuing. The latest figures from Statistics Greenland, broadcast on the Greenland news programme, KNR, on 30 December 2005, show that in the first nine months of 2005 alone, Great Greenland A/S bought Canadian sealskins for DKK 22 million. During 2005 as a whole, Greenland's Home Rule Government spent DKK 25.4 million of tax-payers' money, in the form of market support, on buying sealskins from Greenland hunters.
Great Greenland's imports of Canadian sealskins therefore correspond by and large to purchases of domestic sealskins from Greenland hunters and threatens to oust what is already a hard-pressed Greenland hunting industry.
Imports of Canadian sealskins increased Great Greenland A/S’ turnover from DKK 31 million in 2003 to DKK 51 million in 2004 – an increase of more than 60 percent. Great Greenland A/S states in its latest annual accounts: "the major growth in turnover, however, was to a great extent realised through the production and sale of skins purchased abroad". That is Canadian sealskins, which are imported for processing and use in seal fur production in third-party countries.
In 2005, Great Greenland A/S received DKK 31 million as a direct operational expenditure grant from tax-payers in Greenland and Denmark to buy sealskins and for administrative purposes.
Canadians catch seal pups and still club them to death
Every year, trappers kill more than 300,000 seal pups in Northeast Canada. About half of these are clubbed to death – with what is known as a hakapik, a long wooden club studded with metal spikes, while the remainder are probably shot. In 2005, this amounted to exactly 44%, or 139,627 seal pups that were killed with hakapiks.
The pups, that are between 12 days and three months old, account for more than 96% of all the Canadian seals killed. According to an official statement from the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, only 12,418 out of a total of 365,971 seals killed in 2004 were more than one year old. During that year, Great Greenland imported 44,000 Canadian sealskins according to the Canadian trade statistics. Assuming that Great Greenland bought all its sealskins from animals older than a year in 2004 on the Canadian market, there were still 32,000 skins in Great Greenland's stores that must necessarily have come from seal pups.
Last year in 2005, 317,672 seals were killed on the ice off the coast of Newfoundland. Of these, 312,975 – or 98.5% – were less than two months old. In total Great Greenland bought 47.000 seal skins from Canada in 2005. At least 42.000 of these skins were from the seal pup kill.
Canadian exporters do not differentiate between skins that come from seals that were clubbed to death and those that were shot. This makes it impossible for Great Greenland A/S to substantiate that their Canadian skins come exclusively from animals that were shot with rifles:
"The sealskins are mixed together by the buyers and this makes it impossible to say whether the Canadian sealskins come from pups that were clubbed to death or not," states Dr. Rebecca Aldworth, the Canadian representative of HSUS, The Humane Society of the United States.
Great Greenland has in to the press repeatedly claimed to hold documentation that only riffle killed seal pups are purchased. But this documentation has no yet been published. So consumers are still not assured that all the company's seal skins are from riffle shot seals.
"Broadly speaking all sealskins are bought by buyers from two factories in Canada: Carino, which is a subsidiary of the Norwegian Rieber Group, and Atlantic Marine Products, which is owned by the Canadian Barry Group," says Rebecca Aldworth. "The two companies mix the skins of seals that were clubbed to death with hakapiks with those that were shot with rifles. And the official Canadian export documents contain no information on how the animals were killed," concludes HSUS's Canadian director,Rebecca Aldworth.
Animal protection organisations have long been of the opinion that this type of hunting is cruelty to animals. In 2001, an international team of independent veterinary surgeons examined seal pups and found that more than four out of ten – 42 percent – of them had been skinned while they were still conscious. Other veterinary investigations have shown that down to 5 percent of the seal pups were conscious. Canadian government veterinarians find that the clubbing is safe and humane. Greenlandic and Danish veterinarian experts has supported this view point.
At present, Great Greenland A/S has imported around 50,000 seal pup skins from Canada annually. According to Danish press the purchase in 2005 were 46-47,000 Canadian seal skins. During the first nine months of 2005, Great Greenland spent more money than ever before on the Canadian sealskin market. In 2004, Greenland's Home Rule Government officially claimed that all the Canadian sealskins bought by Great Greenland were from animals that were more than a year old. This is impossible because there are only 9-12,000 sealskins annually that come from animals older than a year that are available in Canada mainly from the subsistence seal hunt in Nunavut. Given such major purchases of skins from seal pups on the Canadian market, through Great Greenland A/S, Greenland's Home Rule Government is a decisive player in the Canadian trappers' business.
The official Greenland version of the trade in sealskins
Nowhere does Great Greenland A/S inform its customers that up to half of the skins sold by the company come from Canadian seal pups. The following statement comes from Great Greenland's web site:
"When you hold sealskin from Greenland in your hand, you are holding the essence of Greenland’s nature and culture. The strong, beautiful skins from free-living animals have been the pride of Greenlanders for thousands of years. The surplus of skins are purchased all over Greenland…".
On 30 March 2005, Greenland's Home Rule Government wrote in an international press release on its web site:
"In Greenland, it is difficult to see the connection between possible problems with the Canadian hunt of seal pups and the wishes to ban the import of sealskin and other seal products. In Greenland, the seal hunt is based on sustainability and therefore there is no reason at all for not buying fur coats made of sealskin or other seal products."