Dismal sales of seal skins this past year have prompted the Nunavut government to make thousands of unsold pelts available to people within the territory.

Many of the 10,000 seal pelts from Nunavut did not sell earlier this year at the Fur Harvesters Auction house in North Bay, Ont., as buyers backed off when the European Union moved to ban the import of seal products.

Now, the Nunavut government wants to ensure most of those pelts go to good use, so it is allowing Nunavummiut to order them directly from the North Bay auction house.

"Instead of the seal skins rotting away or not put to use, then at least let's do something," Simon Awa, Nunavut's deputy environment minister, said Thursday.

"Repatriate some of the seal skins back to Nunavut so that they can be used by local people."

Individuals and organizations such as Nunavut Arctic College are eligible to order the pelts, which are dressed ringed seal skins. The pelts come in an assortment of colours, in large or medium sizes.

There is a limit of 10 pelts per order, and the government will cover the cost of shipping. Retailers are not eligible to make orders.

"This program that we have come up with is basically for individuals that doesn't have access to sealskins to make ... hunting outfits, or some other seal skin products," Awa said.

"Whether it's art or not ... these sealskins should become available for Nunavummiut."

Community conservation officers will have more information about the pelt buying program, Awa added.

About 10,000 seal skins from Nunavut were shipped to the Fur Harvesters Auction House for sale in the past year, but the sale of those pelts drastically dropped as buyers around the world became aware of the EU's pending seal product ban.

"In the last two years that the ban's been building up towards this implementation of the ban, the market's been getting tougher and tougher," said James Gibb, public relations director with the auction house.

Awa said the Nunavut government will decide next year whether to allow the seal skin purchasing program to continue, depending on how well it is received.