NAMIBIA’S Ombudsman, John Walters has proposed a host of changes to the regulations governing culling in Namibia, although he endorses the practice.
After a lot of complaints from seal rights activists, particularly Seal-Alert SA, Walters called a stakeholders meeting in Namibia last year, to which the South African based Seal-Alert was also invited, as well as the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, where divergent views about seal culling in Namibia was exchanged.
Walters said that seal culling in Namibia is not a new practice and dates back to more than three centuries, in his long-awaited report.
“Seal harvesting at Cape Cross started in 1884 when it was the monopoly of the Deutsche Kolonial-Gesellschaft,” the Ombudsman comments in his report.
He concludes that despite the earlier “uncontrolled and indiscriminate exploitation, seals are still with us and will be with us for a long time to come if we are careful”.
He justifies this conclusion by the fact that Namibia’s sustainable utilisation of natural resources legislation and regulations are “well anchored and its accession to a number of international instruments demonstrates its commitment to the management of its marine resources”.
However, he says, that a number of regulations should be streamlined to address concerns relating to seal harvesting.
Among other recommendations, the Ombudsman says, rights holders should immediately bleed out animals that have been stunned or clubbed to death to ensure that they are “irreversibly unconscious or dead”.
He said that rights holders should be compelled to erect temporary enclosures, where pups not exceeding 100 could be confined before they are released for clubbing.
Sealers, Walters says, should be trained in and be competent in the procedures used such as killing methods, monitoring death, unconciousness and rapid bleeding.
Walters also recommends that the the Minister of Fisheries consider independent monitoring of seal culling. Walters, however, says that such groups should not have commercial, industry or NGO links.
He urges the Ministry of Fisheries to publish with immediate effect all conservation and management measures adopted under any international agreement Namibia is party to in the Government gazette.
The Ombudsman says however gruesome the methods used to club sounds, the killing of pups is the “most practical and the only one applicable” in Namibia. “A club strike on the head of a pup (although it may appear brutal) is humane if it achieves rapid, irreversible loss of consciousness and leading to death.”