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Wednesday, 7 November, 2001, 13:19 GMT
Norway suggests tourist seal hunts
Norway expects seal hunting to attract more tourists
Seal hunting for tourists should be introduced as a money-spinning new attraction for Norway, the country's fisheries minister has said.

Svein Ludvigsen said the idea could prove hugely popular, and would take advantage of the fact that Norway's current seal-culling levels are below their permitted quota.

We are not taking responsibility if we just follow the standpoints of Brigitte Bardot - we must take out more animals

Svein Ludvigsen
"I know that people in the travel industry are good at seeing possible ways of making money. This is one such possibility," Mr Ludvigsen told Fiskaren, or The Fisherman, a trade newspaper for coastal Norway.

"Seal hunting in wild Norwegian coastal nature could be sold as an exclusive product to tourists.

"There is no difference between selling hunting licenses for moose and selling such for seals. This could be a hit," he said.

Scandinavian fjord
Tourists could be drawn by the spectacular coastal scenery
Norwegian fishermen have a catch quota of around 1,100-1,200 coastal seals this year, but there is so little interest in the catches, only about half the coastal seals are hunted down, Fiskaren said.

Meanwhile the coastal seal population continues to grow.

"There are imbalances in the ecosystem," Mr Ludvigsen said.

"Sea mammals are a greater consumer of fish than what we humans catch.

Tourists are not going to have the level of expertise to make a clean kill

RSPCA spokeswoman
"We are not taking responsibility if we just follow the standpoints of Brigitte Bardot. We must take out more animals," Mr Ludvigsen told Fiskaren.

"This could contribute to the reduction in the seal population and create a balance in nature."

This is why the culling of sea mammals will be an important theme when Norway meets with Russia for fisheries negotiations, the newspaper said.

Campaigners angry

Animal welfare campaigners have condemned the idea of seal-clubbing holidays.

"There is no scientific justification in general for seal culling," said Helen Briggs of the UK's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA).

"And tourists are not going to have the level of expertise to make a clean kill. They are not going to be particularly efficient at it."

Seals are made the scapegoats for fish shortages, she said, when over-fishing by humans was really the problem.

Norway has also been criticised by environmentalists and animal welfare groups for hunting whales and wolves.

But Mr Ludvigsen said he was looking forward to the day when there was once again global trade in whale products.

"I think it is only a matter of time before Japan once again opens up for imports of whale products," he said.

Johan Williams, Ministry of Fisheries
"We won't force foreigners to come and hunt seals"
Rasmus Hansson, WWF
"It's a silly idea - it won't work"
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