Thursday, February 10, 2011

Namibia's seal hunt gets more exposure

By Dorine Reinstein
Despite attempts of the Namibian government to keep its annual seal hunt as secret as possible, social media such as Facebook and Twitter are spreading the news quickly. The increasing number of people aware of the seal hunt may seriously start to impact on tourism. Various organisations have already called for a boycott of tourism to Namibia.
Up to this date, the seal hunt hasn’t had a big influence on tourism according to Cardboard Box Travel Shop in Namibia. A tour operator at the Travel Shop said: “Wildlife is heavily utilised in Namibia and it does not seem to affect tourism.”
The Namibian seal hunt, held every year from July to November, is the world’s second largest commercial seal hunt and the only one in the southern hemisphere. Last year, the Namibian government gave hunters a quota of about 85 000 pups and 6 000 bulls to be clubbed to death.
In August last year, the EU implemented a ban on all commercially hunted seal products. With the ban, a total of 30 countries announced they would refuse to allow the sale of seal products. Europe strongly spoke out against the seal hunt in Namibia, slating the practice as cruel and wasteful. In the 1970s the US had already deemed the way of clubbing seals in Namibia inhumane and cruel.
The ban doesn’t hold much weight however, according to Francois Hugo, Spokesperson for Seal Alert. The sealskin industry is not extremely popular and one sealskin will sell for about $2 (R14). Last year, one Australian buyer of cape fur sealskins, Hatem Yavuz, proposed to buy up all the sealskins from Namibia for $7 (R50) each, thus creating a monopoly over the market. Thanks to Hatem Yavuz, the Namibian sealskin industry is earning the government $14m (R101m). This has prompted Seal Alert to gather money to buy Yavuz out and pay the government $14m (R101m) in order to prevent the slaughter.
The Namibian government is refusing to divulge any information on the seal hunt. Tourism Update tried to reach the government for comment on several occasions, but none of the spokespeople were available. In 2009, the government even banned all newspapers from covering the seal hunt. Frans Tsheehama, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources, was quoted in a Namibian newspaper as saying:  "Under no circumstances will film activities take place during the harvesting of seals. If the government decides for the coverage by the media, such a project will be awarded to state media institutions of which terms and conditions will be drafted and agreed upon in writing". This statement followed the arrest of two journalists who clandestinely taped the seal hunt.
On the few occasions the government agreed to talk to the press, they claimed seals were consuming 900 000 tons of fish a year, more than a third of the fishing industry's catch. With the seal hunt, they say to be protecting the fishing industry.
Furthermore, the government wants to protect the150 jobs created by the seal hunt.
Hugo however claims clubbing baby seals will not positively impact on the fish production. He says the Namibian government doesn’t seem to understand that by clubbing baby seals, they are obtaining the reverse effect and are increasing the seal population. He explains that when monitoring offshore seals, Seal Alert found that the seal population isn’t growing. Offshore, the seals reproduce every third year only. When researching seal population on land, where the clubbing takes place, one notices the seals reproduce once a year. When one removes a pup from its mother, she will immediately start producing more pups.
Hugo explains the government capitalises on the seals at Cape Cross, where the seals are one of the biggest tourism attractions and yield about NAD6.3m (R6.3m). A sign at the entrance to Cape Cross states: ‘Please help us protect the seals’. Tourists are also assured that the NAD90 (R90) they pay to get access to Cape Cross is used for conservation. However, from July to November, before tourists enter Cape Cross to admire the seals at 09h00, seal clubbers enter the reserve around 06h00, round up the pups and beat them to death says Hugo. Before the seal colony opens to the public, the blood is quickly swept up he adds.
To watch a video on the seal clubbing, click here. Please be aware that this video does contain footage that may upset sensitive viewers.

By Dorine Reinstein, South African Tourism Update Online:  


David Allen Waters said...

great informative post.

Renee Peel said...

This promise of assitance for the Namibian seal cull, I have heard before - this time I am respecftully asking for contact details as previously nothing HAS COME OF IT - This time I WOULD like to get involved and some friends and I would really like to take up this cause and follow it to the end, whatever that may be - it will be greatly appreciated if you could please let me have some contact details.Much apprecated, Renee Peel (