Scientist and senator calls for thousands of Baikal’s endemic seals to be hunted.
The controversial demand to end a total ban on hunting Baikal’s indigenous seals came from Arnold Tulokhonov, who both senator for the Republic of Buryatia in the upper house of the Russian parliament and director of the Baikal Institute of Natural Resources.
The seals need to be hunted to prevent an epidemic and to provide work for local people, he claimed.
‘There was a limit set at 7,000 animals’ (which could be hunted), he said. ‘Now, as far as I understand, the population of seals has grown. Normally, we have about 100,000 of them but now, I think, it’s more. And they have a habit of dying if they can’t find food.’
Previously the overpopulation of seals led to an outbreak of distemper, he said. ‘It can repeat.’ His call is likely to anger animal rights groups, with a recent petition stating that humans cause more damage to Baikal than seals. It read:
‘The Baikal seal is one of three freshwater seal species in the world, endemic to Baikal. Commercial production of seals cannot be allowed.’
But the senator said:
‘There are locals who want to have a source of income. But they were told they can’t fish, they can’t hunt. What are locals supposed to do? Why are they in worse situation than everyone else? The thing is that these limits need to be calculated, approved, discussed and be grounded. We’ve always been shooting 7,000, and everything was okay.’
Fish authority official Vladimir Peterfeld expressed support for a deal cull of 7,000 a year, said reports. Buryatia currently has a 2,500 target for hunting but a federal ban overrides it. In 1998, an estimated 30-40% of seals perished in Baikal because of ‘distemper’. Activists are opposed to ‘processing seals for furs, fat and souvenirs’.
Author: Olga Gertcyk