Namibia forges ahead with culling of seals

The Namibian government said on Wednesday it will continue culling seals after a meeting with animal rights activists failed to halt the mass killings.

The country’s Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources last week met Seal Alert, which has been outspoken in opposition to the hunting of endangered Cape fur seals for their pelts, as well as other animal rights organisations, including the World Society for Protection of Animals and the Humane Society International for Animals United Kingdom.

Frans Tsheehama, the ministry’s permanent secretary, said the government will stick to its policy because Seal Alert “was unable to provide any alternative”.

Last month, at the start of the five-month hunting season, the Namibian government set a three-year total allowable catch of 6 000 adult males and upped the number of pups to be killed by 20 000 to 80 000.

The sparsely populated Southern African country is famous for its wildlife and the desert scenes along its Atlantic coastline, known as the Skeleton Coast. An estimated 850 000 seals live on a group of islands off the southern coast.

The government argues the seals consume 900 000 tonnes of fish a year, more than one-third of the fishing-industry catch.

Tsheehama said a presentation by the ministry’s scientists to the animal rights organisations proved that “allegations” made by Seal Alert regarding the inhumane nature of the harvest had no “basis”.

He said Namibia respects the principles of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, adding that another meeting will be held after all parties have had time to study the presentation further.

However, François Hugo of Seal Alert South Africa said he is still opposed to the practice and that there are no humane methods that can be used. “There is no other alternative to clubbing baby seals to death.
What we are saying is that the culling should not be done,” he said.

He also said he and the other animal rights organisations at the meeting were not given the opportunity to question the scientists. “The meeting was biased. The chairman was from the Fisheries Ministry,” he said.

Meanwhile, the daily newspaper the Namibian reported on Wednesday that local tour operators were advertising internationally to attract trophy hunters to visit the country to hunt seals.

The daily reported that one tour operator was offering a package for $1 169 to hunt seals, including travel expenses, a lunch pack and the assistance of a local professional hunter.—Sapa-AP

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