The long awaited report of the Ombudsman of Namibia was made public last week. In this report advocate John Walters publishes his findings on the country’s seal cull. It took Walters months longer than promised to investigate complaints made by NGO’s, civil society organizations, individuals, and other groups concerning the illegalities of the annual seal harvest in Namibia. The report reads like a bad novella with an illogical subplot.
Last September, Sea Shepherd attended a meeting with the Ombudsman, along with other conservation organizations. Sea Shepherd felt the meeting was token of good will, perhaps a complete façade, nevertheless not a serious attempt by the Namibian government to investigate the killing of Cape Fur seals in their country.
It seems our gut feeling was correct. The ill-researched report is not even worth dissecting for the reason that the Ministry of Marine Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) refused to provide critical data on the population of the cape fur seals, despite several requests by the Ombudsman. Sea Shepherd cannot take a report seriously when the most important party refuses cooperation. It shows the MFRM has chosen to hide critical information and thus, at a political level, has interfered with the independence and integrity of the country's ombudsman. Although adv. Walters has the power to subpoena the MFMR for this information, he has failed to do so.
The report starts off with the historical background of sealing in the country and upon close reading, it is clear that Namibia points a finger at colonial “exploitation” for the onset of seal harvesting, but intimates that it is Namibia who should get credit for the state of regulated sealing as it stands today. It may be true that sealing has its origins in European and American trade, but “regulating” continued exploitation of living resources such as the Cape Fur Seal, is nothing to be proud of – especially if the resource is harvested in the most brutal manner possible.
Providing a historical background of sealing in order to get a clear picture of the issue is redundant. It is a waste of time and paper. You do not need to understand the history of sealing to understand the abhorrent and abject cruelty of the seal slaughter.
After wading through legal jargon and contradictory rhetoric, Advocate Walters seems to base his main argument on the provision made by the Namibian Constitution for the sustainable utilization of the country’s natural resources. After all, if this point is successfully refuted, the whole issue of killing seals becomes null and void and these animals will be allowed to live out their lives in relative peace.
Walters blindly accepts that these animals are being killed sustainably, despite admitting that there is a lack of transparency from the Ministry of Marine Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR). It is extremely irresponsible and misinformed of him to say “seals are still with us and will be with us for a long time to come”. That in itself is could very well lead to Cape Fur seal populations being compromised. Far too many species have gone extinct in our time. At the rate these animals are being decimated, it will be no surprise if they join the endangered species list in the future. So how can Advocate Walters allow the slaughter to continue if he is not certain beyond a reasonable doubt that current practices do not violate the principles of their own constitution? Apparently, in the upper echelons of the Namibian judiciary, such lack of transparency is perfectly acceptable when reaching a solid, grounded conclusion. Sadly, this is the kind of inconsistency that those fighting for the lives of Namibia’s seals have become accustomed to.
To summarize, this official government report is not worth dissecting. Instead read the outstanding report “The Economics of Seal Hunting and Seal watching”, which shows Namibia can generate more revenue from living seals then slaughtered ones.
The people of Namibia deserve an investigator that doesn’t make a complete mockery of Namibia and it’s people. One who demands full transparency from parties involved so he can conclude that the Cape Fur Seal slaughter is illegal, barbaric, and a disgrace for the breathtaking wilderness of southern Africa.
After waiting so long for this drivel, it can be likened to eagerly opening up a present, expecting a bike but getting a pair of socks instead. The "gift" given to us by Advocate John Walters is useless and disappointing, and like an unwanted gift will gather dust in an obscure corner of cyberspace while we continue to wish for something better. Except, because lives are at stake and because we are Sea Shepherd, we will not sit idly by, we will be fighting for the lives of these animals. Until all seal culling activities cease and a moratorium is enacted Sea Shepherd continues to fight so the Cape Fur Seals can live unhindered on the beautiful Namibian coast.