AN international protest group against Namibia’s annual harvest of seals has called on the world’s biggest annual tourism fair to ban Namibia from participating in the event.
As part of several international protest actions, the Seals of Nam protest group last week sent a formal appeal to the organising committee of the ITB Berlin Convention group to exclude Namibia from the conference, which is taking place from March 7 to 9.
Pat Dickens, the Seals of Nam campaign manager, wrote in the appeal that the convention exclusion would form part of an international call to boycott Namibian sport, produce and tourism “based on the country’s annual massacre of Cape Fur Seals”. To date, no response has been received from the ITB organisers.
Maggy Mbako, a spokesperson for the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB), said as far as they are concerned, preparations for Namibia’s participation at the ITB are in full swing. “We have not received any communication from the Messe Berlin with regards to the proposed protest.” She said if the issue should come their way, “The ITB security department deals with these issues and we will receive guidance from them on how to deal with such a cases.” Gitta Paetzold, the CEO of the Hospitality Association Namibia (HAN), said the protesters’ attempt to have Namibia barred from the tourism fair “would be a great pity for tourism as a whole, if this issue would be abused to try and derail an industry that is key for the social upliftment of an entire nation”.
Regarding the impact of seal clubbing on Namibia’s tourism industry, Paetzold said the issue “has become a very emotional one, and all the scientific evidence and motivations for certain actions take second place when emotions are involved”. She said the tourism industry has linked up with experts in the Ministry of Fisheries on the matter in order to form a clear picture on the issue.
Overall, she added, “We from the industry sincerely hope that Namibia’s good record on sustainable utilisation of natural resources and the good conservation record will override all sensationalistic activities.”
Dickens said in the appeal letter that each year 91 000 seals are “savagely beaten to death on the beaches of Namibia”.
He said that the Seals of Nam organisation’s protest actions and international call for support are increasingly gaining momentum and attention worldwide.