NAMIBIAN SEAL SLAUGHTER
GENOCIDE OF CAPE FUR SEALS

Unlimited vast deserts and an annual quota of 300 days of sunshine, is exactly what draws travellers to one of Africa's most intriguing destinations - Namibia. However, what these travellers do not get to see, is the second largest, and what the ex-director of IFAW-South Africa has called, the cruellest seal 'hunts' in the world. A 'hunt which will see tens of thousands of seal pups killed by clubbing, bow and arrow and by being stabbed in the chest. Many of these baby seals will still be suckling on their mothers when they are massacred, with milk pouring from their young mouths..........

CLUBBING-SEALS-131

(PHOTOS OF SEALS BEING CLUBBED, STABBED ETC HERE)

The Cape Fur Seal, a 5 million old species, is a direct ancestor of the Australian Fur seal. A long time ago several swam all the way from South Africa to Australia where they thrive today. Due to gross mismanagement and vested interests within the Namibian Fisheries Ministry, this species is rapidly heading to extinction. Australians can put pressure on South Africa to stop this horrific cull right now on a season that just started July 1, 2006.

CAPE FUR SEAL GENOCIDE

1. This year Namibian Fisheries Minister Abraham Iyambo has increased seal quotas amounting to a 100% cull of baby seals i.e. 85,000 (taking into account that there is a 30% newborn death rate). In 2005 the quota was 65,000 yet one of the two sealer concessionaires could only meet 80% of the TAC killing every pup.

Leading South African Marine and Coastal Management scientist and advisor to the Minister stated "There is no way the sealers will reach their quota". Meanwhile sealers have been petitioning the Namibian government for higher quotas because otherwise many will be laid off and have to return home without any income for the year.

The Cape fur seal population has already suffered mass die-offs in 1994 and 1995 each resulting in 1/3 to ½ of the population dying due to starvation. Namibia should have ended sealing then.

In 2000 Namibia doubled its sealing quota to 60,000 and one month after sealing season had ended 300,000 seals starved to death. Once again, Namibia should have ended sealing.

Instead, the following year, because sealers had only met 50% of their TAC, the sealing season was extended so younger seal babies could be slaughtered.

The current seal population is down 27% from 1993, yet the quota is 68% more than the 1993 quota.

Yet the Minister claims: “The annual harvest of seals is in line with the country’s laws and accepted international conservation principles and practices and that its management strategy was aimed at ensuring the sustainable uses of the marine resource under the constitution.”

Chief Director of Research, Antarctic and Islands - Dr Augustyn claims an "increased" growth across the board for the Cape Fur Seal population from 1972 to 2004. Based on his logic, as long as the seal population remains higher than the first count in 1971 the seal population is increasing and is of "no concern". There has in fact been no overall increased growth, but in fact, a decline in the total seal population since 1997. This is madness, because it ignores all "scientific and conservation" trends over the past few decades and most importantly it ignores trends in the mainland sealing population.

Namibia is only entitled under its constitution to harvest seals in a "sustainable manner" – this irresponsibly high cull of baby seal pups is therefore illegal and the minister should be brought before cabinet to answer why he recommended this increase.


CORRUPTION WITHIN NAMIBIAN FISHERIES

2. The sealing quota is divided between two concession holders, one at Cape Cross (a nature reserve) and the other at Wolf/Atlas Bay (diamond restricted area). Wolf/Atlas Bay is where 60% of Namibian seals are killed.

One of the partners at Cape Cross Lodge, the only privately owned land on this coast with a beachfront whose main attraction is the world’s biggest mainland seal breeding colony, is Namibian fisheries Marine Resource Director, Dr Burger Oelofsen. Dr Oelofsen said in 2000 "We know they are going to die, so why not harvest them? We cannot afford to let them go to waste".

At the lodge sealers kill seals from 5am-10am then it’s open to the public from 10am-5pm, July to November. They make money from the people killing seals and money from the seal-watching tourists (who have no idea what is going on). Trophy hunters go in and kill seals with bows and arrows.

Isn’t this a conflict of interest? Instead of protecting marine wildlife and adopting sustainable practices, the Marine Resource Director chooses instead to round the “worthless seals” up and kill them. What kind of marine wildlife management is this?

NURSING SEAL PUPS ILLEGALLY KILLED

3. Namibia is the only country in the world that permits the commercial slaughter of nursing seal pups. Even Canada, Greenland, Norway and Russia ban it. In 1972 the US introduced the US Marine Mammal Protection Act which banned the import of seal skins from South Africa where nursing seal pups were taken on grounds of cruelty. Over 1 million nursing pups have been taken inhumanely since 1972 in Wolf/Atlas Bay.

In addition, pregnant seals have been illegally killed.

ILLEGALLY ISSUED SEALING PERMITS

4. According to the Seabirds and Seals Protection Act no 46 of 1973, all commercial sealing of this Marine Mammal has occurred beyond the jurisdiction of the "acts" which end at the "high-tide" mark and have occurred on privately owned land, therefore making the awarding of these "seal harvesting" permits illegal. All permits/rights should be revoked immediately.


CRUELLEST SEAL SLAUGHTER IN THE WORLD

5. The Namibian seal slaughter of 85,000 baby seals and 7,000 bulls is the 2
nd largest seal slaughter in the world and is also the cruellest. After being separated from their mothers and rounded up, the seals are clubbed over the head or have a knife stuck in their helpless chests or hunted with bows and arrows for trophies, many skinned alive.

In 2000 the sale of 42,000 pups ? 48,000? yielded $85,000 or less than $3 per seal. So much suffering for so little economic benefit.

This horrific suffering comes on top of already being starving. Starving seals crawl ashore too exhausted to move where seagulls peck out their eyes. Then in addition they get stabbed, clubbed and skinned alive. Some 500,000 - 700,000 seals are starving with 20-25% less blubber on their bodies and ribs protruding.


COLLAPSE OF FISH STOCKS DUE TO SEALING

6. Fisheries blame seal for eating all the fish since there have been no fish in the area for 3 years. Yet culling only babies and adult males (the females have no commercial value) means there are more breeding females therefore more pups to cull the next year. The problem is caused by sealing, not by the seals who have existed harmoniously with the fish in the sea for 5 million years.

The Namibian government has not managed fisheries sustainably and, like Canada, is now blaming the seals. Yet after South Africa stopped sealing in 1990 at its only mainland colony, the seal population - the largest mainland colony in the world - actually declined and has seen no further growth. Cape Cross in Namibia has become the largest seal colony in the world - the direct result of sealing.

The following graph shows offshore colonies (yellow) compared to mainland colonies (green). The mainland colonies have been heavily sealed yet their seal population far exceeds that of offshore islands where there is no sealing. Clearly, the collapse of fish stocks is caused by sealing, not seals who eat fish. No matter how many fish seals eat, they give back to the ecosystem as they have for millions of years.

SEAL EXPORTS EXCEED QUOTAS

7. From 1992 – 2002, Namibia exceeded its official TAC seal quota in gross exports of fur skins by 84,479 (26% over). It was in this period that the Namibian seal population fell 50% from 922,396 to 476,074.

At the 20th Meeting of the CITES Animals Review Committee meeting in Johannesburg 2004 a report prepared by TRAFFIC and the IUCN/SSC Wildlife Trade Program revealed that Namibia exported 37,019 skins in 1995 (117% over quota), 42,611 skins in 1996 (109% over quota), 2,124 skins in 1999 and 48,686 skins in 2000 (115% over quota).

In 2002 Namibia doubled its seal skin exports to over 112,000 skins though the annual quota was 60,000. As Namibia has not notified the CITES Secretariat of this export quota, perhaps CITES should select this species for a Review of Significant Trade since sealers are not following TACs.


SEAL POLICY BETWEEN S. AFRICA AND NAMIBIA

8. Though South Africa stopped killing the Cape Fur seals in 1990, Namibia didn’t. A total of 88% of this species are found on the Namibian mainland. There needs to be implemented a unified seal policy so the species doesn’t go extinct. At the South African Commission on Sealing in 1990, the committee recommended that the Cape fur seals should be managed as one population, as there is no biological evidence to distinguish between the seals who migrate between South Africa and Namibia. These seals are red listed with CITES appendix 2.

BANNED FROM BREEDING ISLANDS

9. For 5 million years Cape Fur seals thrived on 23 island colonies especially Robben Is. Since 1940 seals have been banned from their natural breeding islands causing unnatural coastal breeding so 75% (88%?) of the seals are on the mainland which has no protection under the Seabirds and Seals Protection Act no 46 of 1973 because the seals are only protected up to the high-tide area.

Banning seals from islands and displacing them to mainlands (80 times more space) in the oldest desert and least populated country in the world, has been one of the greatest mismanagement blunders of marine wildlife this past century. The seal cull in Namibia has been a complete scientific and management failure.

Far from being a sustainable utilization of a resource, it has created an imbalance in the breeding population leading to a population explosion that has cost the fishing industry (formerly one of the world’s most productive fisheries) over half a million tons fish annually exceeding N$30 billion (AUD$6.5 billion) losses in the last 16 years. Income derived from seal culls = 0.02% of fishery income.

Of course the reason for driving the seals to the mainland was so they could be conveniently killed outside the jurisdiction of the law that states that the commercial cull of seals on 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, sealing on offshore islands would not be permitted.


SEAL MEAT FIT FOR HUMAN CONSUMPTION?

10. Because there is little demand for illegally killed seal pups the Minister is encouraging people to eat seal meat and even supplying recipes. There are known serious health risks associated with eating seal meat including viruses, pox, hepatitis, influenza, morbillivirus, salmonella, mycobacteriosis, staphylococcus, clostridial, mycotic, candidiasis, sarcocystis, toxoplasma, lung, stomach, heart, and hook worms). Jackals and Hyenas preying on mainland sealing colonies have tested positive for or carriers of rabies and canine distemper virus. It just so happens that one of the side effects of distemper is starvation….

According to the Fishing Industry Handbook Namibia Venison & Marine Exporters which produces carcass, meal, seal oil, seal skins and seal skin products to the livestock, pet food and health food industry in South Africa is jeopardising the health of livestock, pets and humans since no health certificate is required. 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%?

Since this seal/fish meal has already been exported to S. Africa for livestock feed, there could already be risks to human health since no health certificate is required. Fishery Ministers urging citizens to develop a taste for seal meat is grossly irresponsible.

IFAW NO FRIEND OF SEALS IN NAMIBIA

11. In 1999 Dr BJ Van Zyl, Chief Biologist Namibian Fisheries, the Namibian Minister offered the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) who raises $90 million annually, the opportunity to "buy-out" the two sealing rights holders, which was rejected by IFAW. See p.4,
http://www.iwmc.org/sustain/2ndSymposium/issues/issues-14-4.htm

In 1991 the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries agreed to consider a moratorium on sealing if IFAW could demonstrate that seal watching is a better source of revenue than sealing; and if IFAW offered financial assistance for the scientific study of seals in Namibia. Again they refused.

What exactly is IFAW doing to help the seals? Why haven’t they taken legal action to stop Namibia proceed against its own constitition? Or gone to court claiming 3 million seals have been killed illegally based on the non-jurisdiction of the permits? Or campaigned to return seals to their historic breeding islands? Or shown that sealing causes population explosion, weakens seal populations and collapses fish stocks?

Furthermore, IFAW has been involved in working with the S.African government to illegally kill seals instead of protecting them. (short para here?)


MORE CONSTITUTIONAL INFRINGEMENTS

12. 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 their Constitution.

LEGAL BIAS AGAINST SEALS IN NAMIBIA

13. In 2001, when the new regulations for the Exploitation of Marine Resources was gazetted, Cape fur seals were the only marine protected species permitted to be harvested by Namibia:

“A person may not harvest any species of marine mammal
other than the Cape Fur Seal, kill, disturb or main any penguin, petrel, shearwater, pelican, gannet, cormorant, duck, goose, gull or tern, or the eggs of any of these marine resources, or kill or maim any great white shark or turtle”.

Clearly this is not complying with the
Seabirds and Seals Protection Act no 46 of 1973.

IS ANYONE HELPING CAPE FUR SEALS?

14. Seal Alert-SA is the only organization who is actively working to help the Cape Fur Seals. Francois Hugo can be contacted at
saselion@wam.co.za or 27-21-790-8774.

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 and the Cape Fur seals go extinct.

SUMMARY

1. Namibia is commiting genocide on the Cape Fur Seal. 100% of all pups born this year (85,000) will be clubbed, stabbed and skinned - most of them are already suffering from starvation since there are no fish in the sea.

2. There are a number of breaches of law, i.e.

a) killing nursing and pregnant seals - no other country in the world allows this
b) breaking the Namibian Constitution by killing seals unsustainably,
c) infringing on constitutional rights of South Africa and Angola, who also manage these migrating seals
d) issuing sealing permits beyond the high-tide mark

3. Namibian Fishery Dept is blaming seals for its own mismanagement of the fishery industry and its own over fishing policies leading to the collapse of fish stocks.

4. There is a conflict of interest where the Marine Resource Director is directly benefiting financially from the seal slaughter.

5. The slaughter is grossly inhumane.

6. The Minister of Fisheries is jeopardising the health of humans, pets and livestock by encouraging the consumption of diseased and contaminated seal meat.

7. The Minister of Fisheries, Abraham Iyambo, must therefore resign.

8. The International Fund for Animal Welfare is involved in a government cover-up of the treatment of seals in South Africa, has refused two offers to buy out the sealing concession holders in 1991 and 1999 and has failed to used millions of dollars donated by members worldwide to help the Cape Fur Seal.

9. Unless the Namibian Seal Cull is stopped, the consequence will be global outrage followed by a boycott on Namibian tourism and products of commerce.

10. The only organization doing anything to protect this species is SealAlert-SA. Francois Hugo can be contacted in South Africa on 27-21-790-8774 (8 hrs behind east coast Australia),
email sasealion@wam.co.za.