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Seal Harvest

What is the Namibian Seal Harvest? 

Namibia has been involved in an annual seal harvest, which is also known as the Cape fur seal culling or seal hunting. The Namibian government allows an annual quota for the slaughtering of 60.000 seal pups and 8.000 adult seal bulls. The Namibian seal harvest takes place at different seal colonies including the Cape Cross Seal Reserve. Adult seal bulls are usually shot, seal pups are hit on their soft heads with a wooden or metal stick until they die. Seal hunting is currently practiced in eight other countries: United States, Canada, Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Finland and Sweden.

Why is the Namibian Seal Harvest happening? 

The seal harvest was primarily driven by the commercial value of seal fur, oil, seal bull genitalia, leather and other products derived from seals. In response to international pressure and concerns about the sustainability of the harvest, several countries, including the European Union member states, have banned the import of seal products from Namibia. There is, however, a strong market for seal bull genitalia in China. On 01 March 2023, Hon. Mike Kavekotora moved to "find solutions on the devastating effect the increasing seal population has on the sustainable harvesting of our fish stocks" in the National Assembly of the Namibian Parliament. No decisions have been made, but the Namibian Parliament is currently consulting with stakeholders mainly from the fishing indusrtry.

Is there a cultural element to the Namibian Seal Harvest?

The practice of seal hunting for subsistence has a long history in Namibia and has been carried out for generations by the Topnaar community. Seal hunting provided them with food, oil, skins, and other resources necessary for their livelihoods and cultural practices. Seals are no longer part of Topnaar lifestyle and members of the Topnaar community do not get special quotas allocated to them.

Why is the Namibian Seal Harvest criticised? 

The Namibian Seal Harvest has been a subject of international controversy and concern from animal rights organizations, scientists and environmentalists. Critics of the seal harvest argue that the practice is cruel and unsustainable and has significant social and ecological impacts on seal populations and the marine eco-system.

Is the Namibian Seal Harvest ongoing? 

As of 2023, the Namibian Seal Harvest continues to take place every year. The Namibian government has defended the practice, stating that it is sustainable and necessary for managing the seal population and supporting the livelihoods of local communities. It is important to note that the market for seal pups has collapsed and therefore only a small percentage of the allowed quota for seal pups is slaughtered (see table below). Seals are blamed for depleted fish stocks and there is a concern that the government will move from a for-profit-harvest to a paid mass killing.

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% of harvest seals compared to total allowable catch in Namibia, 2017-2021

What is Ocean Conservation Namibia's position on the Namibian Seal Harvest? 

Currently, mainly alpha seal bulls are harvested. While their number is small in the bigger context, we have noticed with great concern that predominanlty prime alpha males are targeted, when they should be the ones reproducing every year. The targeted killing of seal bulls disturbs the seals' harem structure and might be counteractive to population control. We reject the possibility of a government ordered mass-slaughter of seals for the purpose of population control.

Are seals responsible for Namibia's depleted fish stocks? 

Seals are an indicator of the ocean's health. Namibia's seal colony is strong, indicating that there is plenty of food. Seals mainly eat Goby and Lantern fish, both species that are not targeted by commercial fishing. Only commercially targeted fish species are in decline, indicating that the fishing industry is to be blamed for overfishing. Seals only eat as much as they need. Fishing companies will fish until there is nothing left.

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Contact Us:

Namibia: Ocean Conservation Namibia Trust, PO Box 5304, Walvis Bay, Namibia

USA: Ocean Conservation International, 8 The Green, STE A, Dover , DE 19901

©2023 by Ocean Conservation Namibia

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