WANTED, ALIVE NOT DEAD. ECONOMICS STUDY CONFIRMS NAMIBIAN SEAL WATCHING IS WORTH 300 PERCENT MORE THAN SEAL HUNTING
MONTREAL (Aug. 31, 2011)
A comprehensive study on ‘The economics of seal hunting and seal watching in Namibia’ commissioned by international animal welfare organizations demonstrates that seals are worth far more alive than dead. Comparing the most recent figures available for both industries the report concludes that the annual Namibian seal slaughter poses a major risk to the far more lucrative seal watching tourism industry.
The report was commissioned by Bont voor Dieren (BvD), Humane Society International (HSI), Respect for Animals (RFA) and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), and produced by the Australia-based independent economics consultancy Economists at Large. It reveals that in 2008, the seal hunt generated only CAD$503,000 (USD$513,000), a poor comparison to seal watching which netted CAD$1.97 (USD$2) million in direct tourism expenditure in the same period.
The economics report provides a detailed insight into the seal slaughter by examining the monetary benefits attached to each part of the trade. Bull seals account for a large proportion of the profits attached to the seal kills, as their penises are sold in Asian markets for alleged aphrodisiac qualities, at approximately CAD$134 (USD$137) per kilogram. The seal pups are killed for their fur, with each pelt sold for as little as CAD$5.67 (USD$5.78). Aside from the low income netted by the seal slaughter, the practice poses a real threat to the far more lucrative seal watching industry; large scale killing could lead to a collapse of seal populations, as witnessed in the 1990s.
Seal watching in contrast is a popular tourism activity undertaken by around 10 percent of tourists to the country – just over 100,000 in 2008. Based on current growth trends, the report predicts that by 2016 as many as 175,000 tourists will participate in seal watching, generating close to CAD$3.34 (USD$3.4) million in direct revenues. Seal watching also delivers benefits to a far wider range of Namibian society than seal killing, helping boost tourism support services such as hotels and restaurants.
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 practice to tarnish its reputation forever?”
Incongruously, the seal watching takes place on the very same beaches where the killing is allowed: Cape Cross, Atlas Bay and Wolf Bay. During the hunt season, from 1 July to 15 November, hundreds of baby seals are clubbed to death between dawn and 8 a.m. at Cape Cross, a ‘Seal Reserve’. At 10 a.m., the same beach opens as a seal watching attraction and hundreds of tourists flood in.