The power of the people has shown itself yet again: the companies that applied for a permit to capture hundreds of dolphins, whales and other marine animals in Namibian waters off Africa have announced that they will no longer pursue approval for the permit. Some remain skeptical about the announcement – it could be that they will apply again at another time or go to another country - and since there has not been any formal statement from the Namibian government, it could be too soon to celebrate an all-out victory. The announcement is nonetheless a signal that public pressure is a force to be reckoned with.
The International Marine Mammal Project would like to thank all those who wrote and emailed the Namibian government against the proposal, including thousands of Namibians, scientific institutions, and local grassroots organizations.
Today’s announcement is a clear indication that the people of Namibia, and likely the government, collectively rejected the company’s proposal. But some do not take rejection lightly. Ilya Sharapov, representing the company Bejing Ruier Animal Breeding and Promoting Company and their partner Welwitschia Aquatic and Wildlife Scientific Research, issued a rather childish, angry statement lambasting the negative publicity their proposal received, the government’s handling of the permit, and insulted all of Namibia in the process.
Referring to the dolphins, whales, penguins, seals and others as “excess marine mammals” to “harvest”, Sharapov insisted that they would be used in a “sustainable manner for both the benefit of our company and of the Namibian Government and people.” Yet their definition of sustainable does not jive with that of, for example, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), who sent a letter to the Namibian government on October 14, 2016, pointing out that many of the species targeted for capture by the company are listed as endangered.
Sharapov directs his anger at “white” and “wealthy” people who opposed the project. Yet the so-called “animal zealots” are people from nations around the world who came together with local Namibians to be a voice for the potential victims of this company’s quest for profits.
If the companies really cared about the Namibian people as they claim to, they would have asked them what they wanted, rather than coming at them with a half-baked, inhumane idea. It is also very telling, as Sharapov himself points out, that there was no local support for the proposal. Rather than claiming their human rights and democracy were somehow withheld, perhaps Sharapov should consider the possibility that Namibians did not support the project because they did not want it.
Sharapov also appears to be accusing the government of wrongdoing, saying that the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources did not afford them an opportunity to state precisely what they planned to do. However, when applying for a permit, is it not common practice to state exactly this? Why did the company not make their planned activities explicit from the start? They complain about the “prosecution” of newspapers and the media in response to the details they did include in their proposal, apparently expecting to be considered saviors for proposing to devastate the local ecosystem.
The answer to the ongoing poverty in Namibia is not to allow a foreign company to come in and vacuum up endangered species. Sharapov and his company affiliates should get out of the business of exploiting others.
Read the full letter here.
Special thanks to Namibia Against Plundering of Our Seas for their incredible work on this campaign.