Namibia: To Hunt or to Preserve?

International animal welfare organisations have released a new study which suggests that seals are “worth far more alive than dead.”

‘The economies of seal hunting and seal watching in Namibia’ – a study commissioned by World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Humane Society International and Respect for Animals (RFA) – concludes that even though the Namibian seal watching tourism industry is increasing in popularity and bringing in profits, it is being threatened by the annual seal harvesting season.

“In 2008, the seal hunt generated only $488 582 (about N$34 million) while seal watching generated a whopping $195 4329 (about N$136.8 million)

in direct tourism expenditure in the same period…In contrast with the hunt, seal watching is proving to be a reliable revenue generator. As many as 10% of tourists that visit Namibia – about 100 000 of the total number which visited the country in 2008 – have paid for the pleasure of watching seals in their natural habitat. Based on current growth trends, the report predicts that by 2016 as many as 175 000 tourists will participate in seal watching, generating close to $325721 (N$2 280 047) in direct revenue,” said WSPA in a statement.

But the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources says the annual seal harvest is justified as the seals prey on fisheries, which in turn, affects the profit of the country’s fisheries sector.

The ministry further says the annual seal harvest is within the mandate of the Constitution. Olivia Shuuluka, an economist at the Ministry of Fisheries, said the exploitation of the Cape Fur Seal represents one of the oldest commercial “fisheries” in the region and dates back to the 17th century.

Shuuluka added that the harvesting is in accordance with the UN Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and that the principle of sustainable management is also taken into consideration whenever seals are harvested; which is in line with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Code of Conduct for Responsible fisheries.

“The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources operates in the framework of the Marine Resources Act of 2000, to ensure the sustainable utilisation of marine resources for future generation. It is from this that Namibia shall continue with the sustainable management of all its natural resources, both living and non-living, including seals,” she told the Economist during a recent interview. Shuuluka added that the organisations which are calling for a more humane way in which to harvest the seals, has thus far failed to come up with an alternative method.

This year, the seal harvest has provided 81 people with jobs. According to Shuuluka, employees in the seal sector are all Namibians and have acquired harvesting skills as per the Marine Resource Act of 2000.

“It is important to share with you that those that are doing the harvesting, normally under-go training as to how to harvest and handle the seals during the harvesting season. The employment is seasonal and is highly depended on the number of seals to be harvested for a specific harvesting season. Indirect employment is also created from other workplaces such as shops, tannery and manufacturers, specialised in manufacturing and exporting for international designers; they further process the seal skin and employs between 10-20 people who are trained in how to cut, staple, buff and tan the skins,” she said with regard to the economic benefits the harvest holds for the country.

“Each year up to 85,000 baby seals are killed in Namibia to make just a few dollars from their furs; this report highlights that they would be worth so much more to the Namibian economy alive. Eco-tourism is a growing part of Namibia’s identity but tourists will be shocked to find that a seal they photograph one day may be killed the next morning. There is a clear economic case for the government to protect these animals,” said Claire Bass, WSPA’s International Oceans Campaign leader. A conference will be held on 20 September with the aim to gather facts and different viewpoints on the annual seal harvest. The conference will take place under the auspices of Ombudsman John Walters.

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~ by FSVSF Admin on 16 September, 2011.

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