Nunavut sealskins now qualify for an exemption to the European Union's ban on seal imports, the territorial government announced Friday.

The EU has banned the import of seal products since 2009, but allows imports from hunts that certified as being conducted by indigenous people. Canada challenged the ban at the World Trade Organization, but lost that challenge last year.

"This is an important step towards the recognition of sealing as a way of life for Inuit," said Nunavut Environment Minister Johnny Mike in a release. "We must ensure that communities benefit in a tangible way from this positive development by continuing to promote the recovery of international seal markets."

Pelt sales declined after ban

The EU's approval of Nunavut's application for the exemption means Nunavut hunters can once again sell sealskins on the European market. The imposition of the ban caused pelt prices to collapse and the Nunavut government said prices still haven't recovered to pre-ban levels.

According to the federal government, sales of Nunavut seal pelts were worth $736,000 in 2014.

The Nunavut government said it hopes pelt sales to Europe will help make hunting more affordable and allow Nunavummiut to eat more seal meat. Seals are rich in iron and are of high cultural importance to Inuit.

Also Friday, Nunavut MP and federal Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq announced $445,000 in funding for research, marketing and training for the seal hunt. Ottawa will pitch in $260,000 over two years, with the territorial government and southern Canadian universities contributing the rest.