Fisheries Ministry admits assessing Chinese businessman’s request for export of live seals to Asian Aquarium trade

The Fisheries Management Committee of the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources (MFMR) is currently reviewing an application by a Chinese company to catch and export live seals for the Asian aquarium trade. This was now confirmed by the spokesperson of the MFMR to namib times. The ministry remains tight-lipped if the company is also considering to catch other marine species for this purpose, including penguins, dolphins and whales.

The initial application to catch live marine species in Namibian waters was now leaked to the namib times by confidential sources. The project carries the headline “Scientific Research and Reasonable Development of Marine Biological Resources.”
It was made by the company “Welwitschia Aquatic and Wildlife Scientific Research Pty Ltd,” with the technical supporting partner “Beijing Ruier Animal Breeding & Promoting Co.”
Yesterday the spokesperson of the Ministry, De Wet Siluka, confirmed the application “for the export of live seals.”
Once the Fisheries Management Committee has reviewed this application it will send a recommendation to Minister Bernhard Esau. “The Minister will then decide whether to approve or not,” Siluka stated. He could not say though if other species are being considered or have been applied for.
The proposal by the above mentioned company details the intention stating that the company “combines scientific research, education, training and introduction of animals to various country markets.” It is the intention of Welwitschia to invest a total initial amount of N$30 million which will include the equipment, vessel and boats to start the operation. “The project plans to harvest excessive marine mammals and other sea based fish type such as cetaceans, pinnipeds and penguins and to export live animals to plough back funds into sustainable development of the project (sic),” it states.
As part of the project, it is assumed that the Namibian sea has “abundant marine lives which include fur seals, penguins and cetacean species, such as Killer Whale, Fin Whale, Pygmy sperm whale, Rough-toothed dolphin and Heaviside’s dolphin (sic).” In the proposal it is argued that the Namibian fish catches are on a “downward spiral” in recent years, partly because of overprotected cetacean species. Together with pinnipeds these species have increased “dramatically” and they are preying on a large number of fish. “This state of affairs has led to dramatic reductions in the available fish numbers in the Namibian waters,” the proposal reads. This statement is in direct conflict with the current situation though, as the Namibian fish stocks have been increasing steadily since independence.
The project aims to ensure sustainable development of the Namibian fishery industry and also bring a number of economic benefits through the harvesting and exporting of excess live animals. “The Chinese market is enormous: Ten killer whales per year; 50-100 Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins; 50-100 heads of Common bottlenose dolphins; 500-1000 Cape Fur Seals; 300-500 penguins; and various sharks (sic),” the proposal reads; and: “The company plans to help Namibia sustainably harvest excess marine mammals in a humane manner, which instead of killing, will consist of the life exportation for such marine life to add value to other cultures and markets as well as breed and increase in such new habitats (sic),” the proposal states.
News about the application spread like wildfire since namib times first reported about it last week. “If it is indeed true, that dolphins are being considered, I don’t even know how the proposal managed to get this far,” said Barry McGovern of the Namibia Dolphin Project (NDP) to namib times. He is especially concerned as the entire population of bottlenose dolphins along the Namibian coastline is less than 100 animals. “Even if you remove ten animals it would have a devastating effect,” he said. The same applies for the Heaviside’s dolphins which are endemic to the Benguela system. The current local population is estimated at 450 animals. “Dolphins shouldn’t even be considered for something like this as they are protected species,” McGovern added.
In the meantime various environmental organisations from Namibia and abroad have contacted the newspaper regarding the proposal. Many of which are very concerned and wish to investigate the matter themselves. “We are very concerned about the ship that is apparently preparing to catch penguins and marine mammals in Namibian waters,” the Namibian Envornment and Wildlife Society (NEWS) said. Similarly the organisation Sea Shepherd South Africa also contacted namib times for more information on the matter.

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