Namibian Sunshine isn’t what you might think. It’s oil derived from the blubber of the Cape fur seal, advertised online as rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and allegedly more readily absorbed by the human body—given its mammalian source—than fish oil. Since 2005 Namibia has exported almost 33,000 gallons of sunshine, nearly a third to China.
But export of seal pelts dwarfs Namibia’s seal oil business—400,000 of them during the past decade—representing one of the largest trades of any mammal out of Africa. Most go to Turkey, where fashion mogul Hatem Yavuz has them made into “wild fur” coats. According to Seven Network, one of Australia’s main free-to-air commercial television networks, Yavuz controls 60 percent of the global market in seal products.
“I come from a family of furriers,” Yavuz said in a Whatsapp phone call from his home in Istanbul. “Lamb’s wool is the Toyota of the market, mink is the Mercedes, and the sables, chinchillas, and seals are the Bentleys.” He says it takes seven pelts to make a man’s seal coat, which can sell for between $3,000 and $30,000. “China and Russia enjoy this ‘bling bling’—they’re my main customers. You won’t see Turks wearing the Bentleys: We’re good at producing but not at wearing.”
Greece, like Turkey, was recently an importer of seal skins from Namibia. But in 2010 the EU banned imports of seal-derived products in response to public outrage over the way seal pups are clubbed to death, or “harvested” in scientific speak. (The EU ban exempts indigenous Inuit in Greenland and the Canadian territory of Nunavut.)
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Seal hunters call on Quebec to allow hunting on Brion Island
A seal in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. The grey seal population has increased in the last century. (CBC)
Seal hunters in Quebec's Magdalen Islands want the province to allow grey seal hunting in a local nature reserve.
The local sealers association says allowing the hunt could create dozens of jobs in the region while helping to control the seal population.
Before Brion Island in the Magdalen Islands region was turned into a nature conservancy nearly 30 years ago, there were roughly 100 grey seals there.
Today, that number has climbed to 10,000.
Brion Island, in the Magdalen Islands region, is an uninhabited island in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. (Google Maps)
"It's detrimental to the island and the ecosystem in the Gulf of the St. Lawrence altogether," said Gil Theriault with the Magdalen Islands Seal Hunters Association. "We're asking to do a better grey seal management."
Theriault said allowing the hunt would also mean protecting the region's major industry: fishing.
Thousands of grey seals on Brion Island are depleting fish stocks, according to Theriault.
The seal hunters association also said that if hunting on Brion Island were to get the green light, it would boost the region's economy and spark job creation thanks to a multi-million dollar project called Total Ocean.
That project would see several partners on the islands, and elsewhere in Quebec, processing grey seals to sell off the meat, skin and the animal's omega-3 rich fats.
Theriault said the project would create dozens of jobs.
"In the Maggies, having 30 new jobs, you know, quality jobs, it's probably like having 3,000 in Montreal….It's a huge deal," he said, adding that the project could fall apart if the government doesn't act.
"The investor would probably think it's wiser to look somewhere else."
The environment ministry has confirmed it is looking into the request to allow hunting on Brion Island.
Press Release from DFO
FISHERIES AND OCEANS CANADA
NOTICE TO FISH HARVESTERS
Mar. 31, 2016
Harp and Hooded Seal Fishery Opening – 2016 Season
DFO advises Newfoundland and Labrador Seal harvesters based in Sealing Areas 4 to 8, that the fishery for Seals will re-open in Sealing Areas 4 to 8 and 12, at 0600 hours on Sunday, April 10, 2016.
This fishery will open for Front Longliners, Areas 5 to 8 Small Boats and Speed Boats, all Area 4 vessels, and Personal Use. This includes License Classes N100 to N106, N300 to N302, and N400.
DFO further advises Newfoundland and Labrador Seal harvesters based in the Gulf of St. Lawrence that the fishery for Seals will re-open in the Gulf, in Sealing Areas 9 to 23, and 25 to 27, at 0600 hours on Sunday April 10, 2016. The fishery will open for Gulf Longliners, Gulf Small Boats, Gulf Speed Boats, and Personal Use. This includes License Classes N200 to N204, and N401.
DFO further advises Seal harvesters having a homeport located between Big Brook to Noddy Bay inclusive, operating from vessels less than 40 feet, License Classes N203 and N204, that a portion of Sealing Area 5 will also open for Seals at 0600 hours on Sunday, April 10, 2016.
This “buffer zone” lies inside lines extending from:
The land at 51°18” North, 55° 36” West, to
51°18” North, 54°30” West, to
51°42” North, 54°30” West, to
51°42” North, 55°27” West, to
The land at 51° 30” North, 55 26” West.
Seal harvesters are advised to check with their buyers to confirm a market
for their Seals before going Sealing. Additionally, all Commercial
Sealers and Personal Use Sealers are reminded that all landings must be hailed in daily, as per licence conditions.
Sealers are reminded that licences and licence conditions are available through DFO’s National Online Licencing System.
Finally, DFO reminds all Commercial Sealers that Humane Harvesting Training on the three-step process is mandatory for all Commercial Seal licence holders prior to participating in the 2016 season, and in any future Sealing seasons.
The Regional Director General, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Newfoundland and Labrador Region, gives notice that Variation Orders 2015-019 and
2015-030 have been revoked and Variation Order 2016-010 comes into effect on April 1, 2016.
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