A new study comparing two extreme opposite industries in Namibia, seal hunting and seal watching, has been commissioned by a group of animal welfare organisations including The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) and Humane Society International (HSI). The study, entitled ‘The economics of seal hunting and seal watching in Namibia’ was published by Economists at Large, an independent economics consultancy based in Australia.
The innovative study produced some significant and interesting results. Mark Jones, executive director of HSI UK said, “The Namibian authorities have long defended the seal slaughter on the grounds that it generates money and jobs, but this report shows that it could actually be damaging to the economy”.
After a thorough analysis of the two practices, including a comparison of the most recent financial figures available for both industries, the report concluded that seal watching is worth about 300 per cent more than seal hunting. In 2008 alone, the seal hunt generated only £300,000 while seal watching made £1.2 million in direct tourism expenditure over the same time period. Seal watching also proved to deliver benefits to a far wider range of the Namibian economy, helping boost other aspects of tourism such as hotels and restaurants.
When analysing the two markets, the economists considered the benefits attached to each part of the trade. It was found that bull seals accounted for a large proportion of the hunter’s profits as their genitalia are sold in Asian markets for aphrodisiac qualities, receiving £85 per kilogram. Seal pups also attract hunters as they proved easy to catch and kill, with hunters making approximately £4 per pelt. On the other hand, tourism increased in the area as people flock to watch seal colonies in their natural habitat, with seal pups being the main attraction.
The report concluded that even though the Namibian seal watching industry has increased in popularity and has brought in substantial profits, it is threatened by the annual seal slaughter that takes place between the 1st of July and the 15th of November. Hundreds of tourists a day take pleasure in watching seals frolic in reserves and along coastlines that only a few hours before were the setting for scenes of a very different and brutal nature.
Claire Bass, WSPA International Oceans Campaign Leader said, “eco-tourism is a growing part of Namibia’s identity, but tourists will be shocked to find out that a seal they photograph one day may be killed the next morning. There is a clear economic case for the government to protect these animals.”
This low yield trade in seal slaughter could be disastrous for the reputation of Namibia and the eco-tourism companies that offer visits to see these vulnerable animals. Large scale killing, particularly the targeting of bulls, could lead to a collapse of seal populations, having a devastating impact on both an economic and conservation level.
WSPA ambassador Leona Lewis said, “No price would ever be high enough to justify the killing of these harmless animals. This country has so much natural beauty to offer tourists, why allow this brutal practise to tarnish its reputation forever?”