Ecologist Film Unit journalist beaten by seal hunters

Hunters clubbing seals to death in Namibia
The journalists were attacked as they filmed hunters slaughtering seals on the Namibian coast.
Ecologist Film Unit journalist Jim Wickens has been attacked and later convicted of trespass as he filmed the slaughter of seals on the Namibian coast

An Ecologist Film Unit journalist has been attacked by seal hunters (see video footage of the incident above) and later convicted of trespass in Namibia.

Jim Wickens, a reporter with Ecostorm which produces investigations for the Ecologist, and Bart Smithers, a freelance cameraman and fixer, were filming the controversial slaughter of seals when a group of armed hunters set upon them. They claim to have been chased, kicked and punched to the ground.

Speaking to the Ecologist, Jim Wickens said he had been close to being run over. 'Two vehicles chased us down the beach and came close to running me over. After pushing me to the ground they threatened me with clubs and later one of them punched me in the face.'

Their cameras and video footage was also stolen in the incident which took place in the Cape Cross Seal Reserve in northern Namibia, at around 7am on Thursday July 16th.

Arrested by police

Police later arrived at the scene and arrested both journalists on suspicion of trespass and obstruction. No seal hunter was arrested. The following day the pair were convicted of 'entering a protected marine area without a permit' and given a choice between 12 months in jail or a fine of 10,000 Namibian dollars (about $1,200).

Both men returned home after Ecostorm agreed to pay the fine.

Barbaric cull

Although less well-known than the Canadian cull, the Namibian seal cull is just as controversial. More than 90,000 seals are clubbed to death every year away from the view of tourists. The government claims seals consume more than a third of the fishing industry's catch and that the cull is necessary to protect the fish industry.

Campaigners say the cull is both barbaric and unnecessary.

'This violent and unwarranted attack is going to shine the spotlight on Namibia. Many people are aware of the Canadian hunt but not about what goes on in Namibia,' said Ecostorm co-director Andrew Wasley.

The cull at the Cape Cross Seal Reserve takes place in the early hours of the morning in a spot close to a tourist viewing platform. The beach is cleared of the dead seals before tourists arrive later in the morning.

Wasley said a complaint had been made to the British High Commission in Namibia about the assault and theft of the journalist's equipment.

Useful links
Video footage of the seal hunt

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