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* Record low Namibia seal cull

* Seal pelt market softer, ice conditions harder

* Icebound sealers airlifted off boat near Fogo Island

* Canada's seal hunt begins

* Namibia considers war against seals

* Groups slam bill to distance observers from hunt

* Harp seals well out to sea with good ice this year

* Namibian government says sealers did not reach quota

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The Canadian Seal 'Hunt' 2014 and the Namibian Cape fur seal slaughter 2014

Note: we reprint articles as they are written, complete with erroneous information. We urge those who care about seals to educate themselves by perusing the various sections of our website.

 


 

Seal Cull in Namibia to Be Record Low as Pups Evade Clubs

By Felix Njini Nov 13, 2014 6:27 AM PT
Bloomberg.com

Cape fur seals - Hoberman - Universal Images - Getty Images
Namibia, the biggest hunter of seals after Canada, licenses right holders to kill the fish-eating mammals during a harvesting season that starts in July, seeking to profit from selling fur and adult male penises, an aphrodisiac in Asia. Source: Hoberman/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Namibia’s annual seal harvest is set to be the smallest on record after thousands of the animals evaded death by clubbing or shooting along the southwest African country’s coastline.

With the season ending this week, almost 26,000 seal pups have been clubbed to death for their fur. That’s half of last year’s number and well short of the annual quota of 80,000, according to the fisheries ministry in Windhoek, the capital. Hunters won’t kill all of the 6,000 bull seals they are allowed to shoot either by the Nov. 15 deadline, the ministry said.

Namibia, the biggest hunter of seals after Canada, licenses right holders to kill the fish-eating mammals during a harvesting season that starts in July, seeking to profit from selling fur and adult male penises, an aphrodisiac in Asia. Last year’s total also missed the quota, declining to 51,464 pups and 3,968 bulls. The government blamed that drop on license holders lacking up-to-date processing facilities.

“The number of harvested seals has been gradually going down and this year’s would be the lowest-ever catch,” said Charlie Matengu, a spokesman for the ministry, in an interview this week. “Seals are wild animals and to make it even more difficult, they live close to water, thus making it difficult to have a 100 percent harvest. It is the nature of the operation that causes the fluctuation of harvested seal.”

Government revenue in 2013 from the export of seal products slumped by 63 percent to just more than 2 million Namibian dollars ($180,000), the fisheries ministry said in January.

Skeleton Coast

The smaller number of dead Cape fur seals doesn’t signal a population in decline. Government scientists are discovering new colonies, some extending to the waters of neighboring Angola to the north, said Matengu.

Namibia estimates its seal population at about 1.3 million, consisting of 618,700 cows, 348,623 bulls and 348,263 pups. The numbers may be booming, although it’s hard for officials to be sure, Matengu said.

“There could be significant increases in the population, because we have observed the formation of new colonies,” he said. Scientists have found several previously unknown seal-breeding grounds, particularly at Cape Cross on the Skeleton Coast, north of Swakopmund, Namibia’s second-biggest town, Matengu said.

New breeding grounds have also been recorded at Torra Bay, Mowe Bay, Pelican Point, Sandwich Harbour and Angola’s Tiger Bay, he said. At Cape Cross, where Portugal’s Diego Cao, the first European to land in Namibia, came onshore in 1486, as many as 210,000 seals converge at a time.

‘Not Humane’

The Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts-based International Fund for Animal Welfare criticizes the Namibian hunt as “not humane,” according to the group’s website. Filming or photographing the hunt is currently banned, according to IFAW.

While Namibia has previously argued that seals consume about 700,000 metric tons of fish annually and pose a threat to fish stocks, the annual harvest isn’t held because the animals are top predators in the ecosystem, according to Matengu.

Namibia regards seals as “an exploitable marine resource where the government can derive both consumptive and non-consumptive economic gains and government policy is to exploit them on a sustainable basis,” Matengu said.

The goal of the harvest is not to protect fish stocks, he said.

“Over hundreds of years, seals co-existed with fish species,” he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Felix Njini in Windhoek at fnjini@bloomberg.net

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net John Viljoen, Sarah McGregor

 


 

Seal pelt market softer, ice conditions harder: sealer

By Josh Pennell
April 21, 2014
thetelegram.com

A somewhat softer market and harder ice conditions are temporarily keeping some sealers ashore while others are staying out of the hunt altogether for this year.

Executive director of the Canadian Sealers Association Frank Pinhorn says Carino Processing Ltd. is offering $35 a pelt like last year but will buying fewer pelts overall due to a softer market.

“It’s a little bit soft compared to last year and the market for most wild fur and farm-raised fur is sort of a little bit soft,” he said.

According to Pinhorn, Carino will be looking for 60,000 pelts. The Department of Fisheries and Oceans manages the 400,000 seal quota, but ice and weather conditions are going to have to change before some sealers are able to get out at the hunt.

“I still hear from Cape Bauld down the west coast the ice is close to land and a lot of them aren’t out yet,” said Pinhorn.

Leo Seymour of Harbour Round usually takes part in the hunt, but not this year. The harbour in his community has been choked with ice depending on the direction of winds. He said a bigger boat than his 34-11 is needed to get anything out of the hunt this year.

“I s’pose some fellers takes a chance on it. Some fellers might have 1,500 or a couple of thousand seals so it’s not so bad. But if you’re only getting a couple of hundred seals it’s not even worth fuelling up your boat for. You can’t even pay your expense,” he said.

Weather conditions, too, are tough out at the Front. Seymour has been speaking with one sealer who was out there.

“It’s wicked. It’s wicked. Bad days. Blowing gales and then the fog and everything. And the ice is so heavy.”

With the forecast likely to blow ice into the harbour again shortly, Seymour figured he’ll have to wait to get his crab pots in the water, too.

 


 

4 icebound sealers safe after airlift off Fogo Island

April 17, 2014
CBC News

Sealing boat crew rescued - JTF Atlantic 2014
Four crew members were forced to abandon their ice-bound vessel on Wednesday night. (JTF Atlantic)

Four sealers were airlifted Wednesday night from a vessel that got stuck in ice off Newfoundland's northeast coast.

Major Martel Thompson of the Joint Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Halifax said the Double N was stuck in ice about 125 kilometres off Fogo Island.

Thompson said the ice and weather conditions were a challenge for the people on the boat and for the crew on the Cormorant helicopter who rescued them.

"There was a real fear that there's an imminent collision with an iceberg that was located 500 feet from this vessel and [was] closing in on them," Thompson told CBC.

"The Cormorant crews were battling low visibility due to darkness and 110 km/h winds."

Thompson said the helicopter crew hoisted the four sealers to safety and flew them to Gander.

The Double N was left adrift.

The seal hunt opened earlier this week.

 


 

Commercial Seal Hunt Opens Today

Monday , April 14 2014
vocm.com

Adult harp seal - from VOCMThe commercial seal hunt opens today. The 2014 quota will allow for the harvest of up to 400,000 harp seals. Members of the Humane Society say they'll be on the ice and in the air documenting the 'slaughter'.


Numbers from the province indicate the landed value of seal products was around $3-million last year compared to $1.5-million in 2012.

Canadians have been particularly active in recent weeks promoting the seal hunt with the recent 'sealfie' movement online, posting pictures of themselves wearing sealskin clothes. It started after American talk show host Ellen DeGeneres took a celebrity sealfie at the Oscars with funds raised going to the Humane Society to fight seal hunting.

Late last year the World Trade Organization upheld a European Union ban on seal products, a decision the federal government is fighting.

 


 

Namibia: Esau Considers War Against Seals

By Adam Hartman
20 March 2014
The Namibian
allafrica.com

THERE are about 1,2 million seals along Namibia's coast - 16% up from 1993 figures - and consisting out of 26 colonies, according to the last survey figures from 2011.

The Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Bernhard Esau, views this as a possible imbalance and is considering "to declare a war" against the seals.

"Two weeks ago when I was traveling to Meob Bay, I witnessed a lot of seals down south. I don't know whether those are new colonies, but every 500 metres you just see seals. I also don't know whether we should leave them like that or whether we should interfere. Maybe we should declare war. I don't know. We have the generals here. We need advice from our generals what to do when there is an imbalance in this respect," Esau told stakeholders of the fishing industry in Walvis Bay at his annual fisheries address last week.

The last survey measuring the population of seals was conducted in December 2011 for the entire Benguela Current Commission region, which includes Namibia, Angola and South Africa. The survey was co-sponsored by the BCC and the main purpose was to obtain an estimate of the seal population in the region.

The results also showed that the seals are widely distributed along the Namibian coast at around 26 colonies with an expansion of the distribution towards the northern part of Namibia and the southern part of Angola, according to the survey findings.

The next aerial survey is expected to be conducted in December this year, as these surveys are done every third year, in line with the three year rolling Total Allowable Catch (TAC) for the seal stock.

"Namibia will implement the scientific recommendations arising from the latest aerial seal survey in setting a TAC for the future sealing seasons," said Esau. Namibia's annual controversial seal harvest is from 1 July to 15 November.

While there is a global outcry over what is considered the unjustified cruel culling of seals, emphasised by a international campaign to boycott Namibia's tourism industry, four new concessionaires were added to participate in the annual seal harvest last year. To add salt to the wounds of the opposition, instead of stopping the cull, another three year rolling TAC (for 2013 to 2015) of 86 000 seals (80 000 being pups) was approved in August last year.

 


 

Animal Rights Groups Slam Seal Hunt Bill

By Justina Reichel,
March 12, 2014
Epoch Times

Animal rights groups are crying foul over a bill that would make it more difficult for them to observe the seal hunt, which is set to open later this month in Atlantic Canada.

Sealers on boat kill harp seal - Andrew Vaugan - Canadian Press
Hunters kill a harp seal during the annual East Coast seal hunt in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence on March 25, 2009. Animal rights groups are upset over a bill that would make it more difficult for them to observe the seal hunt. (The Canadian Press/Andrew Vaughan)

Bill C-555, or An Act respecting the Marine Mammal Regulations, seeks to increase the distance that unauthorized persons or “unlicenced observers” must maintain from seal harvesters.

The bill, which recently had its second reading, would change the safety distance to a full nautical mile (1.8 km) instead of the present half nautical mile.

Conservative MP Greg Kerr, who introduced the bill last November, says the aim is to protect sealers and hunt observers, show support for the commercial seal hunt, and ensure that seal harvesters can go about their job “without fear of disruption.”

But Rebecca Aldworth, executive director of Humane Society International-Canada, is calling it a “nuisance bill” and an attempt to spread misinformation.

“We are there to document and record what happens, not to obstruct [the seal hunt], and the Canadian government is well aware of that,” she says.

“In the 15 years that I’ve observed the commercial seal hunt at close range I have never once heard of or seen a sealer threatened by an observer in any way, shape, or form. But I have seen countless instances where sealers have attacked observers.”

Aldworth also worries that the bill will punish innocent bystanders such as tourists, wildlife observers, and local residents who unknowingly enter the 1.8 km range of the seal hunt and subsequently incur hefty fines.

“Ultimately there is no practical way for local residents and eco-tourists to know exactly where commercial seal hunting is happening, and when. And yet this bill puts the onus on those residents and tourists to determine that information,” she says, adding that it could curtail the lucrative seal-watching and eco-tourism market.

Currently, anyone can apply to Fisheries and Oceans Canada for a licence to observe the seal harvest. Speaking in the House of Commons last week, Kerr admitted incidents of misusing the licence to disrupt the hunt have been “few and far between” but says there are “radical groups” that remain a threat.

“There are those people who do not want to comply and do not want licences and simply want to disrupt the seal hunt. These are those people we are most concerned with,” he said.

Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Gail Shea and Environment Minister Leona Aglukkaq both support the bill. Shea said in a statement that it will “help to strengthen our management of the Canadian seal harvest while improving the safety of everyone involved.”

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has also raised concerns about the bill, saying it may be paving the way for a cull of 70,0000–200,0000 grey seals, which the government has long blamed for a lack of fish stock recovery in the southern Gulf of Saint Lawrence.

It is harp seals that are targeted during the commercial seal hunt. According to IFAW, grey
seals are often encountered on land, and regularly within range of human habitation and coastal activity.

“The introduction of Bill C-555 suggests that a sanctioned cull, or Strategic Targeted Removal (STR) of grey seals is being planned in areas that are within one nautical mile of human activity,” says a Feb. 27 IFAW briefing document.

The Canadian Sealers’ Association did not respond to interview requests by press time, but a statement on the organization’s website supports Bill C-555, saying it meets seal harvesters’ security concerns.

 


 

Harp seals well out to sea with good ice conditions

Mar 10, 2014 2:45 PM AT
CBC News Posted:

harp seal pups - Canadian Press
With good ice conditions this year, harp seals are expected to stay well off-shore. (The Canadian Press)

There won't be many harp seals seen along P.E.I.'s North Shore this year, say Fisheries and Oceans officials.

Poor ice conditions the last few years forced the harp seal herd close to shore. This year, however, the ice is thicker. Fisheries officials are finding the seals much further away from P.E.I., close to the entrance of the Cabot Strait, between Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

"The last few years we have not had much ice and as a result the seals had started to show up, along the north side of P.E.I. in particular," said Fisheries and Oceans research scientist Mike Hammill.

"This year it doesn't look like they'll be close to P.E.I. at all, they'll be 80 to 100 miles [130 to 160 km] to the north of P.E.I. So I doubt very much that we would see any harp seals around P.E.I. this year."

Hammill said the harp seal population this year is around 7.4 million in all of eastern Canada, similar to other years.

The harp seal hunt usually starts around the end of March. The grey seal hunt is currently open in several areas of the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence.

There is no seal hunting currently underway around P.E.I.

 


 

Namibia Government Says Seal Cull Fell Short of Quota Last Year

By Felix Njini
January 14, 2014
Bloomberg News

Namibia fell short of its quota for killing seals last year because of insufficient processing facilities, the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources said.

The south-west African country, the second-biggest hunter of seals behind Canada, killed 55,432 seals in its annual cull compared with a quota of 86,000, Charles Matengu, a spokesman for the ministry, said in an e-mailed response to questions. That included 51,464 baby seals and 3,968 bulls.

New right holders failed to meet the quota because they didn’t invest in processing facilities and declined to use those of old right holders, said Matengu.

Namibia allows right holders to kill 80,000 baby seals and 6,000 bulls every year until 2015 as it seeks to profit from selling pups’ fur and adult male penises, which are used as an aphrodisiac in Asia. Animal rights groups are demanding an end to the cull because they say it’s inhumane.

“The management policy is to exploit them on a sustainable basis,” Matengu said, adding that a 2011 census showed the country’s seal population rising to a record 1.2 million. “This growth can also be seen with more colonies being formed in the north.”

The International Fund for Animal Welfare said in July that Namibia would struggle to meet its 2013 quota as import bans in the European Union, the U.S. and Russia cut demand for fur products. Seal pups’ fur is used to make boots and hats.

Revenue from exports of seal products slumped by 63 percent to just over 2 million Namibian dollars ($184,000) last year, Matengu said.

Fish Consumption

Seals consume 700,000 metric tons of fish a year, more than the country’s total fishing quota, the Namibian government has said. The allowable catch for hake, which is exported to Europe, and horse mackerel, sold to countries in southern and western Africa, is 140,000 tons and 350,000 tons respectively.

The Namibian hunt is particularly cruel as it targets seals of between seven and 10 months old, who are still nursing, IFAW has said. They are separated from their mothers and clubbed to death with wooden bats as they run toward the sea, the animal rights group said in July.

In Namibia, the seals are usually culled at Atlas Bay and Cape Cross, where Portugal’s Diego Cao, the first European to land in Namibia, came onshore in 1486. As many as 210,000 seals converge on Cape Cross, which lies on the Atlantic Ocean north of the town of Swakopmund, at a time.

To contact the reporter on this story: Felix Njini in Windhoek at fnjini@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Antony Sguazzin at asguazzin@bloomberg.net

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