The price of a Nunavut seal pelt has dropped from as high as $70 to as low as $25 over the past year or so, according to a Canadian fur auction house that sells the pelts. ((CBC))

Sales of seal pelts from Nunavut have plummeted in the past year and a half, in the wake of the European Union's move this year to ban the trade of seal products.

The impact of worldwide publicity surrounding the ban, which EU parliamentarians passed in May, is already being felt in Nunavut, where Inuit sealers have made a living harvesting seals for the fur market.

Fur Harvesters Auction Inc. in North Bay, Ont., would usually sell most of the 10,000 to 12,000 seal pelts it receives from Nunavut each year, at an average price ranging from $50 to $70, said Ed Ferguson, a fur technician with the auction house.

"Now, in the last year or so, we've sold probably maybe 25 or 30 per cent, and it's at a $25 or $30 number," Ferguson told CBC News.

Most of those 2,500 or so pelts have been sold back to Nunavut, he said.

Ferguson said most global consumers have already shied away from buying seal pelts as a result of the EU's ban, which is expected to take effect in August 2010 in 27 European countries.

The Canadian government is challenging the EU ban before the World Trade Organization. It has maintained that Canada's seal hunt is sustainable, humane and closely monitored, contrary to claims put forward by animal-rights activists.

While the challenge is underway, there are calls within Nunavut to find other ways to keep its sealing industry alive.

"Just as other businesses or livelihoods get compensated when they're going through a hard time, we need to do the same thing with the hunters," said Aaju Peter, an Inuit sealing activist from Iqaluit.

"We need to do the same thing with our families."

Peter said there is already a viable economy for seal products within the territory, and it can be improved by providing more support to sealers.

Back at the auction house, Ferguson said it will continue to take in seal pelts from Nunavut hunters, but not nearly as many as usual.