Namibia licences cull of 86,000 seals - activists protest
By Clare Byrne Jun 29, 2007, 17:29 GMT
Johannesburg/Windhoek - The government of the southern African desert state of Namibia has sanctioned the cull of 86,000 seal pups each year for the coming three years, claiming the move is critical to protecting the country's key fishing industry.
Fishing is one of Namibia's biggest employers and foreign currency earners.
The sharp increase of the seal population is endangering the industry because the seals kill around 900,000 tonnes of fish each year, Information Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah was quoted by Namibia's German-language Allgemeine Zeitung daily on Friday as saying.
The cull targets the Cape Cross and Atlas-Bucht colonies, where the state estimates the seal population at 650,000 adult and 205,500 baby seals.
Compared with the industry's average annual catch of 600,000 tonnes, it was clear that 'seals were killing off more fish than the commercial fishing industry,' the information minister said.
The Cape-Town-based organization spearheading the response of animal rights activists to the cull, Seal Alert, has rubbished the state's claim that seals are decimating fish stocks.
'Throughout the world it is accepted that the fishing industry is over subscribed,' said Francois Hugo of Seal Alert. 'It is ludicrous to contend that seals can compete with commercial fishing.'
Namibia's seal population had fallen from 220,000 pups born in 1994 to 185,000 born in 2006, Hugo noted.
The pups killed are not eating fish and are still being suckled by their mothers, he told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa in an interview.
Cape Fur Seals, the species hunted in Namibia, are listed as an endangered species by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species).
Hunters target seal bulls and pups - the bulls for their genitalia which are sold in Asian countries for their purported aphrodisiac powers, the pups for their fur.
The bulls are shot but the calves are clubbed to avoid damaging the fur.
This is the first time the government has imposed a multi-year seal cull quota, which may be increased or decreased before 2009, depending on its impact on the seal population.
The quota is composed of 80,000 bulls and 6,000 pups. Last year Namibia authorized the slaughter of up to 91,000 seals - 85,000 bulls and 6,000 pups.© 2007 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur