Namibia: Animal Rights Groups Invited to Seal Culling

by Jul 8, 2010Seals

Windhoek — Namibia’s seal culling season starts today and goes on until November 15, and while the animal rights groups are aghast at this practice, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources says it is a necessary evil to rebuild its fishing stock.

The seal industry contributes between one and two percent to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The contribution of the entire fishing industry to the GDP is five to six percent.

The seal population is considered a threat to the hake industry, which is harvested at 140000 metric tons per annum and creates 12000 jobs.

By December 2009, the seal population was estimated to be 700000. The culling will constitute about 10 percent thereof, with the annual rolling total allowable catch (TAC) for 2010 to 2012 set at 80000 pups and 6000 bulls. Cows are not harvested.

“If we reduce the TAC [on seal culling], we will have to deal with job layoffs,” said Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau. He said the country was, however, not insensitive to concerns expressed by animal welfare groups, saying that the ministry is in touch with the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) and other groups to explore alternative methods to harvest the seals. The bulls are shot and the pups are clubbed on their heads.

“It is my sincere belief that Namibia has the most ethical laws of culling seals,” said Esau.

The ministry has extended an invitation to the SPCA and Seal Alert to accompany the minister when he goes to Cape Cross to view the culling on July 13. Seals are culled at Cape Cross, Wolf Bay and Atlas Bay. The European Union (EU) has banned seal products in its markets, but Esau said this is of no consequence to the Namibian seal industry because seal products are sold locally and in the Asian markets.

He said Namibia is still penetrating new markets.

Three companies have been given concessions to harvest the seals, which will be done in the presence of a fisheries inspector. Culling will be done in line with the Marine Resources Act.

Esau said the principle of sustainable management of the seal population is taken into consideration whenever seals are harvested, and is in line with the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) code of conduct for responsible fisheries.

He said seal products have attracted more investment and Namibia is expecting the Hatem Yavuz Group from Turkey, which is the biggest seal skins importer, to transfer skills or processing seal skins to Namibians by opening a value-adding processing plant. This investment would create employment for more than 100 people.

The fisheries ministry is also in consultation with the Ministry of Education to advocate for the distribution of seal oil in capsule form to all schools in Namibia.

Seal oil is rich in Omega 3 fatty acids, with benefits like the enhancement of the brain, eyes, heart functions and the cardiovascular system. As a seal range State, the ministry said Namibia has become aware of the importance of seal derivatives to the health and medical fraternity.

International scientists have discussed possible surgical implants from seal tissue, while seal heart valves for human heart surgery show promise.