Premier Danny Williams is highlighting possible dissent within Europe as EU legislators get ready to vote on a bill - as early as April - that would ban the import of seal products.
"Denmark has Greenland, there's a seal hunt there," Williams said in a recent interview.
"You've got non-EU countries like Iceland and Norway who have a seal hunt. I understand there's still a partial seal hunt going on in Scotland - obviously the U.K. has some issues."
The premier also said talks with the French territory of St-Pierre-Miquelon have revealed unease about the pending legislation.
"It's my clear understanding from their government down there that they are expressing their concern to the government of France that they're opposed to the seal ban," Williams said. "It's my understanding that France is possibly not going to vote for the seal ban."
Earlier this month, a European Parliament committee voted to endorse a strict ban on the import of all seal products.
Canada's top markets for seal products are not EU nations. But the ban could choke off demand and halt the transshipment of pelts to places like Russia and Norway.
Ottawa had pinned its hopes on the possibility of "derogation," or possible exemptions, for the Canadian commercial hunt.
The bill endorsed by the European Parliament committee rejected such an exemption. The only exemption allowed is a limited one for Inuit hunters.
There are still two more hurdles for the anti-sealing bill to clear.
Both the full European Parliament and the Council of Ministers must OK the legislation. The voting process is somewhat complicated (for an explanation, see related sidebar below).
According to provincial government figures, the annual seal hunt generates $13 million in landed value. The total industry value, including production, is $25 million to $30 million.
A proposed European Union ban on seal products must still pass two more legislative hurdles before becoming law.
The first of those is approval in the European Parliament by a simple majority vote. Parliamentary delegations are weighted according to country size.
The second is approval by the Council of Ministers.
That process is more complex. It requires:
a majority of the member-states;
who represent a minimum of 63 per cent of the EU population;
a minimum of 232 votes (equal to 72.3 per cent of the total number of votes in the Council of Ministers).
In effect, the procedure requires a double majority - i.e. both of member-states (with a majority of the EU population) and a qualified or special majority of the 345 votes in the Council of Ministers.
Votes in the Council are weighted according to relative population, with larger member-states (Germany, France, Italy, the U.K.) having 29, all the way down to Cyprus, Estonia, Latvia, Luxembourg and Slovenia with four, and Malta with three.
Sources: Memorial University political science department; Jeffrey Lewis, "The Council of the European Union," in Michelle Cini, ed. "European Union Politics," 2nd ed. (Oxford University Press, 2007).