The Namibian (Windhoek)

Namibia: Esau 'Open' on Seal Issue

THE Namibian government is open to suggestions on improving the management of fish and seal populations, says Fisheries and Marine Resources Minister Bernhardt Esau.

While anti-seal harvesting campaigner Seals of Namibia has renewed its threats to boycott local companies, Esau maintained that Namibia has a sustainable system of harvesting its resources.

Seals of Namibia is targeting the Ohlthaver and List Group of Companies such as Namibia Breweries Limited (NBL), Namibia Dairies and Hangana Seafood Limited as well as Namdeb, Air Namibia, the Namibia Tourism Board (NTB) and Bank Windhoek.

The campaign manager of Seals of Namibia, Pat Dickens, says an economic boycott of any country is not something to be taken lightly, as it affects businesses and people on the ground and should be used with caution.

"Repeated calls from multiple organisations and individuals to the government of Namibia to change their policy on seal culling have fallen on deaf ears.

"We have no other alternative to show the government we are serious, except to go for their coffers," he was quoted as saying on the organisation's website.

Statistics quoted by the Fisheries Ministry maintain that seals eat about 900 000 tonnes of fish a year, more than a third of the fishing industry"s catch.

The seal quota for this year was set at 80 000 pups and 6 000 bulls, which the ministry claims is based on surveys and stock assessments, as well as the advice of scientists.

According to Esau, Namibia's seal population has shown a 16 per cent increase over the past year.

"There is now a seal colony at Pelican Point near Walvis Bay which was not there last year. If there are people who feel that there are better methods to harvest the seals they are welcome to contact us. Otherwise we continue with the existing method of harvesting the seals," said Esau.

Ombudsman John Walters, who investigated seal harvesting in Namibia after complaints by animal rights groups, told The Namibian that his report will be completed towards the end of this month.

"The Ministry of Fisheries will give me the results of a survey done by the Benguela Current Commission on seal populations in Namibia, Angola and South Africa. I will not release the report without these results," he said.

The executive chairman of O&L, Sven Thieme, said the boycott threats are not new and so far they have not had any effect on the group's businesses.

"But why are we part of the targeted companies if Government is dealing with the seal harvesting?" Thieme asked.

NTB spokesperson Maggy Mbako said the company was established in terms of an Act of Parliament and can only be dissolved by an Act.

"Their boycott will not make us dysfunctional and we will continue to market Namibia as a tourist destination and regulate the industry as stipulated in the Act."

Marlize Horn of Bank Windhoek said the threats are not new but she preferred not to comment on the issue.

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