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Seal hunters -- endangered species in Greenland

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Lately, Denmark's Queen Margrethe II has been wearing a sealskin coat made from Greenland seals. Meanwhile, her husband, Prince Henrik, has been opposing the killing of seal pups off the Canadian coast. (He is president of the Danish chapter of the World Wildlife Fund.)

If you are confused, so are many Europeans.

Caught in the middle are 10,000 Greenland Eskimos, or Inuits, who claim their long tradition of hunting adult seals has been confused with the killing of seal pups off the coast of Newfoundland.

The Inuits have seen their standard of living decline as a result of a boycott of all sealskins in Europe.

Ironically, the Inuit never kill the so-called ''whitecoats,'' the offspring of the harp seal, which does not even breed in Greenland.

''We are victims of a misunderstanding which has a firm grip on Europeans,'' says the leader of the Inuit campaign, Greenland's Prime Minister Jonathan Motzfeldt.

The European market is so important for sealskins that a group of Inuit hunters and politicians is making a campaign tour of seven European cities this month to clear up the confusion. And they have on their side Queen Margrethe, whose country still owns Greenland. The Queen helps point out the distinction to the public by frequently donning her coat of Greenland sealskin.

Several years ago, environmentalists began protesting the use of the fluffy white fur of Canadian seal pups. Frequently dyed and used as a trim on purses or other items, the fur from the seal pups is often unknowingly accepted by shoppers. But the familiar gray coat of the adult seal is being boycotted by a European public that Greenlanders consider well-intentioned but misinformed.

''We don't expect sealskin prices to rise immediately as a result of this campaign. We do hope to leave behind in Europe a doubt which slowly but surely will result in a better understanding of native seal hunting.''

Mikael Gylling Nielsen, vice-president of Greenpeace in Denmark, has declared that it is not the aim of his organization to harm the traditional seal hunt by the Inuit.


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