Most practical methods used to harvest seals: Walters

Gruesome as it may sound, the stunning and sticking method used to kill seal pups is the most practical, and only applicable, method to harvest seals in Namibia.

This is one of the findings published in the report of Ombudsman Advocate John Walters on ‘Complaints by civil society organisations, non-governmental organisations, individuals and other groups on the illegalities pertaining to the annual seal harvest in Namibia’ dated 22 June 2012.

“The harvesting of seals is lawful; the Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources does not exceed his jurisdiction and his power in respect of the management and utilisation of seals in Namibia, which extends over Namibian waters and Namibian land, including Cape Cross and Wolf and Atlas Bays,” he noted.

Namibia does not cull seals, but harvests them, according to Walters.

He said he is of the view that clubbing is the most practical method to kill seals and the only one applicable in the Namibian harvesting process, provided it should lead to the irreversible loss of consciousness and death.

He emphasised that Namibia’s seal population had increased to the point where they far exceeded the carrying capacity of the environment.

According to the report, government’s approach to the question of the seal harvest is guided by the same principles which apply to the utilisation of any other natural resources falling within its jurisdiction, namely that these be utilised on a sustainable basis, to the benefit of the inhabitants of the country.

Despite oral and written requests by Walters for the outcome of the 2011/12 aerial survey of seals by the Benguela Current Commission and other information, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources did not respond.

He indicated that he is unable to make a definite finding on the two opposing accounts of whether Namibia is “guilty” of the unsustainable utilisation of its seals, or not.

However, Walters said he can only agree with law firm DLA Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr, which after examining Namibian legislation said that current scientific evidence is required which will indicate that the current total allowable catch (TAC) is not rationally linked to population numbers and will result in population numbers being reduced to a level from which they may not recover.

On the economics of seal hunting and seal watching in Namibia, Walters noted that he did not research the topic and cannot comment on it, except to say that he agreed with the report.

Walters added that it is in the public interest that data regarding the total number of the seal population, the size of the quotas and the actual number of pups and male seals harvested, be published annually.

The current seal population is about 700 000, and the TAC stands at 600 males and 80 000 pups per season.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), the global authority for red listing species of conservation concern, lists the Cape fur seal as “of least concern.”

Seals are listed under Appendix II in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which includes species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilisation incompatible with their survival.