Namibian 'Baby' Seal Killers are Responsible for the Mass Starvation
From: Seal Alert-SA
Date: December 21, 2006

Press Release
Seal Alert-SA - 21st December 2006

Namibian 'baby' Seal Commercial Killers are Responsible for the Mass 
Washing Ashore and Mass Mortalities of Starvation of Seals

       Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA leading the international outcry amongst animal rights groups calling on Namibia to end its genocidal baby pup sealing policy, responds to the recently released findings of Dr Moses Maurihungirie, Director of Resource Management in the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries into the causes of the 2006 mass mortality and starvation of seals that are 'littering' the beaches in their tens of thousands.
      See media releases : The Namibian and the New Era and
       The Ministry's autopsies on an single adult female seal and a pup (showing that all their body-fat reserves were depleted), reveal little into what has caused hundreds of thousands of seals (mostly pups) to suddenly become abandoned and slowly starve to death and/or females to abort, just two months into Namibia's largest seal cull on record.
      Seals don't give birth and become re-impregnated in December, and then suddenly starting dying in mass from starvation 9 months later (annually) - without some more physical and environmental cause.
      Seal Alert-SA disputes the Ministry's claims that 'lack of sufficient fish and a scarcity of pilchards' are the main cause for the mass death. Research done by Dr Jeremy David of Marine and Coastal Management (South Africa) found that 52% of seals diet consists on non-commercial bearded goby, 23% horse Mackerel, 5% Snoek, and less than 20% is made up of a whole range of species like Anchovy, Hake, Squid, Crayfish, Crab, Shrimps and Prawns. Pilchards, although plentiful (where in 1968 1.5 million tons was commercially harvested) has not recovered since the 1994 collapse from overfishing, and therefore cannot be a major contributing factor, 12 years later into these regularly mass mortalities particularly half-way into sealing season suddenly.
      Since 1990 when Namibia started its intensive seal culling season (July to November), regular and annual mass washing ashore and mass starvation has immediately preceded the seal cull event. This has been recorded since 1988.  This is one of the reasons Namibia's sealing policy is not sustainable and is in violation of both South Africa and Namibia's constitutions.
      The death by starvation of these seals, is the direct result of the daily disturbance inflicted upon these seals by these 'barbaric' club welding sealers. 
      Just prior to the start of the 2006, recently lengthened baby seal pup sealing season which started on July 1, the Ministry announced that the seal population had recovered from a previous mass die-off incident recorded in 1994. Where half the population of seals equally reportedly starved to death during its annual sealing season, which runs everyday from 5am to 10am, from July to November. In fact, several such publicly reported mass die-off's during sealing season have been recorded 1988, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2004 and now again in 2006.
      The Ministry reported that just prior to the start of the 2006 sealing season that the Seal stock was healthy and that the seal population, of which 75% occurs within the two sealing concession areas of Wolf/Atlas Bay and Cape Cross, could sustainably support the largest nursing baby seal cull on record of 85 000. Yet, just two months into the seal cull (again), the three Namibian sealing concession holders report that they had to bury upto 900 pups a day and that they could find no more pups to club to death on the colonies. Immediately thereafter, the public started reporting the mass strandings of seals away from the sealing colonies, where mass mortality and starvation became widespread both in the north and south of the sealing colonies. South Africa was equally flooded with weanling seal pups fleeing the sealers. Likewise escaping seals fled north and even into Angola.
    Unlike the Harp Seals of Canada (another sealing country) whose baby pups are weaned after three weeks from birth. Cape fur seals, a completely different species, nurse and wean their pups for upto 12 months and dry-land. Pup to cow bonds are much deeper, more dependent and more emotional. As far back as 1987, these Harp seal species sealing countries (Canada, Greenland, Russia and Norway), all acknowledged, and banned the practice of clubbing nursing baby seals in nursing and breeding grounds.
    This is in fact the cause, of the reported mass starvation and mortality being reported two months into sealing season, and with good reason. Conservationally and ethnically it is an unsound practice to allow an annual commercial sealing industry to go into seal nursing and breeding grounds, where baby seal are still nursing, and begin an annual clubbing cull of these seals.
    It will cause seals to flee. Pups separate >from nursing cows, starve and then perish. Traumatised cows in turn abort or abandon the new-born.
    It is for these reasons the USA has banned the import of Cape Fur baby seal skins since 1977, and the EU banned the imports in 1983. Namibia remains the only country in the world to slaughter nursing baby seals in birthing and breeding grounds.
    The Ministry's attempt to use the collapse of Pilchards as the cause for widespread starvation and mass mortality, when well aware of the conservational 'no-no' of slaughtering baby seals - is tantamount to public fraud.
    The Ministry further in its desire to 'cheat' the Namibian public and international tourists - has made some serious blunders this past year. First it admitted pups were only growing at 10% of their normal growth rate and secondly that the mass starvation was widespread, and thirdly that there have been annual mass die-off's involving one third to one half of the entire seal population, and finally - Sealers themselves have never been unable to fulfil the 'sustainably' set baby seal pup quotas by the Ministry.
    What all this clearly adds up to, is that Namibia is not harvesting seals sustainably, its intention is their destruction, to conceal their own mismanaged fishing policies. No longer is the Ministry civilised, its now using 'voiceless' seals to conceal their own mismanagement of fisheries.
    As the Namibian Ministry has chosen not to officially announce an end to its sealing policy, like South Africa did in 1990, it should brace itself for economic and tourism boycotts of all its major industries. Already over 13 million international citizens have voiced their opposition to Namibia's baby seal cull policy. 2007, will see that number grow larger and more intense. Germany which will head the European Union in 2007, has confirmed all seal products are now banned from import into their country.
    Namibia announce an end to your sealing policy, or face the consequences.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
27-21-790 8774