A European Parliament committee has backed a proposal for a partial ban on the import of seal products from Canada and other sealing countries.

The legislators rejected an initial bill that recommended tough labelling rules instead of a ban.

The amended bill, approved by a vote of 27 to 7, calls for a ban but includes an exemption for Canada's and Greenland's Inuit communities.

The European Parliament is scheduled to vote on the proposed ban April 2. The European Council will then make a decision on the matter, likely in June.

Canadian politicians, including Sullivan and federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, have met with their European counterparts in recent weeks in an effort to convince them that the commercial harp seal hunt is humane.

The import ban could deliver a devastating blow to Atlantic Canadian fishermen who rely on the annual hunt as a source of income, shutting down critical shipment points, including in Holland and in Germany.

Canada's largest markets for seal products, such as Russia, China and Norway, are outside the EU. But sealing industry experts fear a ban would curb the demand for seal fur from the fashion industry and disrupt shipping routes.

In the past three years, the total allowable catch in Canada has hovered between 270,000 and 335,000 seals annually.

Shea is expected to announce this year's seal hunt quota by the middle of this month.

Nordic EU countries, including Denmark, Sweden and Finland, have all voiced opposition to a ban on seal hunting, and EU experts say a ban could pose a legal headache under world trade rules.