Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
South American fur seals have been hunted for centuries, both by indigenous peoples and by whalers. Early peoples in the area of Tierra del Fuego, as well as in Uruguay and Peru, used the seal for meat and clothing. Commercial hunting of these seals began in Uruguay as early as the 1500s, mainly for their skins and oil. The oil was used for lighting and later as a medicinal for tuberculosis. Hunting pressure was unregulated until the 1940s, when a population decline in Uruguay was evident. Since then, take has had an annual limit, which now is about 7,000 – 12,000 seals, limited to young males. In Peru, commercial hunting of these fur seals continued until 1959, when it was prohibited. In Chile and Argentina, the seals were hunted and used for bait to catch king crab. Today, commercial hunting is only done in Uruguay. (Reeves, et al. 1992, Jefferson, et al. 1994)
Positive Impacts: ecotourism ; source of medicine or drug ; research and education
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