PRESS RELEASE - 11th July 2006
commercial slaughter of seals has become a much more
complexed affair since, seals were forced off islands onto
the mainland in 1940 and South Africa abolished its
Seal Cull policy in 1990 and incorporated seals and the
environment into its constitution in 1994. Namibian
fish stocks have since collapsed, and as such needs
urgent review and an immediate moratorium on further seal
culls. Simply - the commercial culling of seals in Namibia
must end - now! If long term ecological damage in
this region, that has already cost billions and millions of
seal lives, and threatens the future stability of
the this entire southern African marine ecology
region, South Africa and Angola included is to be
◦ Both the offshore colonies (yellow) and the
mainland colonies (green) - just thirty years previously
originated from one single offshore population which was at
least 50% less than the (mainland and offshore) colonies
combined populations in 1972. Based on offshore colony
trends, no human interference or sealing, the (green
section) would not have existed this last 30 years, neither
would its growth - and therefore its sealing industry.
◦ The commercial cull or sealing industry upon seals breeding in their natural state (offshore islands) - is a non-sustainable utilization of a resource - as it directly causes colony extinction - therefore under the constitutions of both South Africa and Namibia would not be permitted.
◦ The seal cull in Namibia has been a complete scientific and management failure. Far from being a sustainable utilization of a resource, it has lead directly to an imbalance in the breeding population, and has directly lead to a population explosion that has cost the fishing industry (once one of the most productive fisheries in the world) over half a million tons annually (equal to the entire Namibia's fishery TAC) with losses in the past 16 years, exceeding N$ 30 billion. Its direct benefit to fishery from seal culls, TAC fishing benefit of 0.02%.
◦ Although sealers have slaughtered over seven hundred thousand nursing baby seals (illegally under international law) and the seals themselves have endured two mass die-off's from starvation from overfishing (or non-sustainable policies of fishing), where one third to one half of the population starved to death since Namibia's independence, clearly indicating the ecology in the region has collapsed - this should have sent massive Warning Signs to marine scientists - who instead did nothing. These two mainland colonies, which did not exist in 1940, have grown to exceed half a million seals unnaturally. With an overall Namibian mainland population exceeding seven hundred thousand foraging fish eating seals, and growing - preventing any future recovery of fisheries.
◦ Seals are a marine resource and as such in the case of Namibia's constitution, any right to harvest them would be within the territorial waters of Namibia and up to the low-tide water mark on the coastline. The current harvest of these seals (on the two mainland colonies) occurs outside of this jurisdiction and is therefore invalid and all permits/rights should be revoked.
◦ In comparison, after South Africa stopped sealing at its only mainland colony, where equally 75% of the seal population in South Africa, equally began breeding on the mainland in 1940, its population although rising to become the largest mainland colony in the world (during its sealing years), actually declined after sealing stopped in 1990 and has seen no further growth. With Cape Cross in Namibia where sealing continued now becoming the largest in the world - the direct result of the sealing industry.
◦ In comparison to all the above, seals have lived for at least 5 million years on off-shore islands exclusively, until mankind interfered. With the near extinction in 1900 of this seal species on islands, there should have been no migration onto the mainland 40 years later. In fact although island population of seals represented 100% of the population in 1940, 50% of the population when first surveyed in 1971, they have effectively declined to represent now just 20% - without the management of culls.
◦ Although seal breeding has only occurred on 18 ha or 2% of the offshore protected islands over the last 30 years, with 23 major former island colonies remaining extinct, the overall offshore island population, which has not experienced any major die-off nor intensive sealing or culls since the early 1970's has actually declined on its own, without human interference.
◦ Disturbing and banning seals from 400 ha of limited island seal breeding space over 4000 km, and displacing it onto 32 000 ha (80 times more) mainland space within just 1000 km, in the oldest desert and least populated country in the world, has been one of the greatest mismanagement of our marine resources this past century.
◦ Facilitating proven diseased infested land predators to freely prey on unnaturally displaced seal colonies, could pose very real threats to future food security and to human health. Should these land based diseases and viruses like rabies and distemper, enter the marine food-chain and fish stocks humans consume. Either it has already happened or could pose serious threats in the future, noting that starvation is a by-symptom of distemper.
◦ With three major mass die-off's in only the last 16 years, where one third to one half starved to death in each incident. Namibia should have ended sealing. Instead Namibia doubled its sealing quota to 60 000 in 2000, it also reported its largest mass die-off of over 300 000 seals, one month after sealing season had ended. Instead of ending it then, it lengthened the sealing season in 2001. Sealers still struggled to harvest their full quota, averaging around 50% of sealing TAC. Then clearly under the Namibian constitution sealing is not sustainable and has to stop.
◦ Not in Canada, Greenland, Norway or Russia is the slaughter of nursing seal pups legal, even though the US, the world's biggest trading partner through its US Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) has banned the imports of seal skins from South Africa and Namibia, as far back as 1972, whose decision was upheld by the US appeal court in 1977 - Namibia has continued to slaughter over seven hundred thousand nursing baby seal pups illegally. Even with the US the biggest buyer of its gem diamonds. In 2002 Namibia illegally exported 112 000 skins, when the quota was only 60 000, without CITES approval. With CITES showing that Namibia has exceeded its sealing TAC by over 26% since independence - clearly indicating that sealers are not sealing according to set TAC's.
◦ The mass die-off's in 1988, 1994 and 2000 - where the Minister of Fisheries stated in 2001, "We know they are going to die, so why not harvest them?", "We cannot afford to let them go to waste", could have already resulted in the transmission of serious health risks to both the livestock this "Seal/Fish-meal" was exported into South Africa to feed, and the resultant risks to human health, as no "health certificate" is required for these exports to livestock. Fishery Ministers urging their citizens to develop a taste for seal meat and supplied recipes - is just plain irresponsible.
◦ With the mining industry the largest contributor to Namibia's GDP at 20%, and De Beers the largest mining company and in partnership with Namibia in diamond mining, completely opposed to sealing or culling seals - can Namibia afford to continue and upset it biggest mining partner and US market?
◦ The Cape fur seal population is one species of seal that occurs between South Africa, Namibia and Angola - Namibia's unlawful harvest of nursing protected baby seal pups, is therefore an infringement on the constitutional rights of South Africans under our own Constitution.
After Italy's win, the focus is now on South Africa to host the 2010 Fifa World Soccer Cup and the high crime rate already an issue and concern to millions of potential overseas supporters, does Namibian think that images of "Africans in gum-boots standing over struggling alive helpless nursing baby Cape fur seal pups and plunging a knife into its chest or clubbing it with a pic-axe" will instil confidence in the minds of these millions of potential visitors, that Africa is a safe country, when images are beamed into millions of peoples homes for the next four years - should Namibia decide to not end sealing.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
SEAL ALERT-SA, 11th July 2006.
Irresponsible - Risks Health of his Fellow Namibians
Seal Processing Factory of a Namibian Sealing Concession Holder
Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA, which has started this campaign to end the Namibian Seal Cull, was shocked to read of the Minister's reply yesterday, when he stated, "If culling seals is a problem, the solution is to eat them".
Is the Minister not aware of the incident reported in the Mail & Guardian in 1997, where his one of only two concessionaires was caught attempting to process seal meat to be sold as sausages for human consumption. The subsequent impounding by Health Inspectors from the Ministry of Health or the statement made by Albert Brink of Sea Lion Products at Cape Cross, "criticised the move by health ministry to impound the meat, saying it was unwarranted as no health certification was necessary".
Is he further unaware that the hundreds of Jackals and Hyenas predating on the two mainland sealing colonies have all tested positive or as carriers of rabies and canine distemper virus. Is he aware at all, of the multitude of viruses, diseases and parasites that seals can potentially carry, such as Pox virus, Hepatitis, Influenza, Morbillivirus, Salmonella, Mycobacteriosis, Staphylococcus, Clostridial, Mycotic, Candidiasis, Sarcocystis, Toxoplasma, Lung, Stomach, Heart, and Hook worms, and the resultant as yet, untested threats these could pose to human health.
Is the Minister willing to risk an outbreak similar to "bird-flu" or in this case, "Seal-Flu", for the sake of two concessionaires who employ part-time a few unskilled workers, whose culling at best benefits Namibian fishery by only 0.02%.
Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA therefore urges not only the authorities in Namibia, but the Ministers in South Africa and the general public - to call for an immediate end to the Namibian Seal Cull and in addition, the resignation of the Minister, before his irresponsible behaviour plunges this region into another health crisis.
Disease, viruses and parasites, just waiting to happen
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA