The Swiss government has banned imports of most seal products from April 1. This measure brings its rules in line with those of the European Union.
The cabinet decided on Friday to ban the import of products such as seal meat, oil, fat, blubber, organs, fur and skins from the beginning of April.
Exceptions will be made for items from hunts traditionally conducted by Inuit or other indigenous communities, and travelers will still be allowed to import seal products for personal use. Imports of seal products will also still be possible for exhibitions or for research purposes.
A government statement said that Swiss imports of seal products are "already minimal" and the new rules are unlikely to have a significant practical effect.
Apart from Canada, seal hunting is also permitted in Greenland and in Namibia. The meat, blubber and fur coats of seals have traditionally been used by indigenous people of the Artic. An estimated 900,000 seals are killed by humans every year.
A total of 30 countries have imposed bans on the import of seal products. In 2011, the organisations OceanCareexternal link and the Fondation Franz Weberexternal link submitted a petition to the Swiss parliament in Bern calling for a ban. The same year Swiss People's Party parliamentarian Oskar Freysinger submitted a motion 'Import ban on seal products' to parliament, which was accepted by the House of Representatives but suspended by the Senate.