WALVIS BAY – Namibia’s seal population has escalated to such an extent that it is putting pressure on local fish stocks.
Namibia is one of the countries with the largest seal population, which, according to scientists, stands at more than 1.4 million.
They consume more fish than what is caught in total by fishing right holders in a season. Government for the past three seasons allocated a total allowable catch of 8 000 bulls and 80 000 pups to nine companies that are harvesting seals in the country.
A former manager at the Seal Products factory in Henties Bay earlier indicated they alone harvest 3 000 bulls and 35 000 pups annually.
Despite this, the fishing industry, according to fisheries minister Derek Klazen, is not happy with the growing seal population, whose proliferation continues to pose a threat to local fish stocks.
“The seal population has grown so well that it has become a problem. To this end, the ministry’s scientist’s assessment indicates the seals stock is doing very well and, indeed, the number of seals is estimated to be about 1.4 million.
They also stated that the current seal population on average consumes more fish than what the country is fishing per year,” Klazen said last week.
He added he has been continuously asked why the seals quota cannot be increased to level the playing field.
In response, Klazen said the quota could be increased, however, harvesting, processing and selling of seal products is more challenging than what meets the eye.
“It appears that bulls are preferred products to be harvested, while the quota has more pups than bulls. Currently, the pups are also not economically
Also, seal harvesting has become an international tool, used particularly by environmentalist groups to restrict the trade of fish and fishery products originating from countries that harvest seals,” Klazen explained.
He added this is currently the dilemma the ministry faces at this stage.
Seal Products shareholder Gabriel Uahengo admits their current seal quota is not enough.
However, he said, the seals issue is very sensitive, and government has to approach the issue responsibly so that the international world, especially the animal rights activists, do not find loopholes and accuse Namibia of being irresponsible.
“At the same time, I understand why they are reluctant to increase it. It takes more than it meets the eye; hence, the scientists and ministry have to take a critical look at the issue and make sure that we take proper decisions when it comes to the seals quota,” Uahengo said.
Yesterday was the end of the current seal harvesting season.