Sea Shepherd Meets the Voice of the Namibian People
Reported by Steve Roest and Laurens de Groot
On September 20, 2011, Sea Shepherd returned to Windhoek, Namibia to meet with the country’s Ombudsman, an official who has the power to recommend the government end the seal slaughter, and if necessary, take the government to the high court, and other concerned stakeholders to discuss the legalities of the annual seal slaughter referred to as a ‘harvest,’ the exploitation of natural resources, and the killing method of seals in Namibia. Sea Shepherd’s CEO Steve Roest and European Director Laurens de Groot didn’t travel overseas just to discuss the barbaric seal slaughter; they came to demand that the Namibian government bring an immediate end to the illegal slaughter of seals.
During Sea Shepherd’s Operation Desert Seal campaign this past July, Sea Shepherd crewmembers were robbed, harassed, and eventually chased out of Namibia, but succeeded in their main goal of making sure the world is well aware of the seal slaughter industry which results in the brutal deaths of 91,000 Cape fur seals. Namibia’s seal slaughter, the world’s largest mass slaughter of marine mammals, has become an issue of national concern resulting in news coverage for weeks following Sea Shepherd’s departure. The government had no choice other than to have the slaughter investigated by their ombudsman, inviting all concerned parties who oppose the seal slaughter to the table.
During this closed-door meeting, environmental organisations including International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), Seal Alert, Seals of Nam, and South African Seal Saving Initiative (SA.SSI) presented the documented and proven facts demonstrating why the seal slaughter is illegal. One needn’t be a lawyer to comprehend that the seal slaughter in Namibia is illegal, but apparently not according to Gabriel Uahengo, a representative for the seal products industry, who instead of presenting factual information to justify the slaughter, turned the focus to Sea Shepherd for committing criminal activities and accusing foreign environmental organisations of challenging the sovereignty of Namibia. Mr. Uahengo failed to present a single fact to back up his accusations, so he couldn’t be taken seriously, and immediately following his presentation, the seal slaughter representative went back to his desk and proceeded to sleep through all of the other presentations.
However, Mr. Uahengo missed out on the best part of the meeting, the comedic-like display of misinformation and twisted scientific nonsense delivered by Titus Lilende, Deputy Director of the Ministry for Fisheries and Marine Resources. Mr. Lilende did not produce a single piece of peer-reviewed or documented scientific evidence regarding the ‘seal harvest,’ instead he explained that the assessment of seal numbers was based on some vague aerial picture and that the filmed evidence of illegal killing methods was all staged. The best bit of non-scientific nonsense was his claim that according to the government, the Cape fur seal is not protected or listed on the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) list II because the Cape fur seal is a ‘look-a-like seal’ and not endangered at all or protected at all. As usual, he stated that seals eat fish so therefore they have to kill the seals to protect their fisheries and that seals “don’t eat cucumber sandwiches.”
Sea Shepherd pledged to facilitate $30,000 towards job creation activities for the sealers if Namibia stops the seal slaughter, other nongovernmental organizations might be prepared to add to this figure when the Namibian government can provide the relevant economic data.
The ombudsman stated that he will make his findings publicly available before September 2012 which unfortunately means after next year’s seal slaughter, leaving Sea Shepherd with no other option than to return to Namibia next year to continue their mission where they left off.