Date: June 3, 2007
Namibia's Sealing Culling Industry Exports - Risks International Human Health
Seal Alert-SA : Press Release
June 3, 2007
Industry Exports -
Risks International Human Health
Baby Cape fur seals recently clubbed to death and now being processed
Less than 27-days to go before the start of Namibia's 2007 baby seal cull.
In 2006 Seal Alert-SA warned the Namibian Fisheries Minister of the health risks associated with Seal Product Exports. His response reported in the media was, "If culling seals is a problem, the solution is to eat them", later he appealed to Namibians "to develop a taste for seal meat".
The first mass die-off of the Cape fur seals occurred in 1988 (the largest marine mammal mass death worldwide). It occurred again in 1994, to which in 2006, the seal population had still not recovered to pre-1993 levels. It occurred again in 1995, 1996, 2000, 2002 and just last year. Each time, one third to one half of the seal population died.
Namibia did not stop its population reduction (cull) or its international exports. It even increased and doubled it baby pup quota.
During last year's cull on 85 000 pups, sealers half-way through sealing season which runs from July 1 to November 15, reported (in the Republican) having to stop and bury up to 900 dead seal carcasses a day. Namibian Ministry agreed to investigate the causes of the mass die-off's. Permanent Secretary Mbako revealed that, "Pups were growing at less than 10% of their normal weight. 50% were below a threshold of post weaning survival mass of 11kg. The majority of pups will not survive post weaning age". Ending with, "Studies are being conducted to determine whether the die-offs are a consequence of any pathological infection (viral or bacteriological) or not. If evidence of any pathological induced infection is absent, we can with certainty cast the reason for the mass mortality on starvation".
Seal Alert-SA can now reveal that Doctors Henton, Zapke and Basson, at the world renowned Bacteriology Section, Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in South Africa, in 1999, concluded that, "Streptococcus phocae infections associated with starvation in Cape fur seals at Cape Cross (sealing) colony Namibia".
There are 35 known serotypes of Streptococcus, according to Professor Gottschalk (a world expert) and consultant to the World Health Organization. One such strain, Streptococcus suis, occurred in an outbreak in slaughtered pigs in China in 2005. Of the reported 215 pig to human cases, 66 were laboratory confirmed, of these (61) 92% showed streptococcus toxic shock syndrome, and of these 38 (62%) died.
Since this confirmation by Doctors at Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute in 1999, Namibian sealers have continued to export Cape fur seal products to 23 countries.
Professor Gottschalk has stated, "This raises the level of concern for human infection because strep organisms multiply very rapidly once an animal has died".
Prior to the new sealing regulations, where 63% of the weight of pups were discarded and 75% of the bulls, new regulations require that the whole carcass be consumed or utilised. Since the Streptococcus Phocae infection confirmation in 1999, over 500 000 individual (clubbed and culled) seals, comprising of various body parts have been exported internationally. Six countries in the Far East, with Europe the largest at fourteen, and with South Africa importing the bulk of the carcasses mostly for use in petfood and livestock feed.
Vomiting, deafness and meningitis are all possible symptoms of this disease.
Its only a matter of time, that Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA believes cases of seal to human deaths will start occurring (if not already), considering the sealers unhygienic seal processing factories and the long time it takes to transport the culled (slaughtered and clubbed seal) from the seal colonies to the seal factories many miles away, particularly in desert heat conditions.
All I can say, is that you were warned, Namibia.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA