Namibia's Commercial Seal Culling
"Crime Against Nature" Policy,
Alienates Itself Internationally

From: Seal Alert-SA
Date: May 31, 2007

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Whilst Namibia was forced to "conceal" and confirm the Mass Starvation of its Seals in 2006,
Its Largest Commercial Cull on Record - Continued

        With less than 30-days to go, to the start of Namibia's 2007 annual baby seal cull (due to start on July 1), the second largest Seal Slaughter in the world (by three sealing concessionaires)  -  Seal Alert-SA raises some serious questions that need answering by the Namibian Fisheries Ministry.
        Unlike the commercial Seal Hunt in Canada, the Cape fur seal population has instead always been culled and not hunted. Equally, there is no fair chase, instead baby seals are rounded up on Namibia's beaches with their nursing cows and clubbed to death. It is a term conservation managers use to "control" a wild population. Scientifically therefore it should have no basis for a commercial sealing industry. Furthermore numbering less than 1/5th of the Canadian seal population, the Cape fur seal population can hardly be considered large (where not even Canadian Fisheries uses that excuse in their hunt).
        Considering that the cow and domestic cat has become the largest predator of marine fish. Would any civil minded country allow their feral cat population to be rounded up and clubbed to death, daily - on their beaches or in public streets?
        Although the Cape fur seals, the only species of seal found breeding on the whole African continent, was classified by the United Nations - Convention In Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) as an endangered species (unlike the Harp seals), under its Appendix II listing since 1977. The southern African countries of South Africa and Namibia (the distribution range of this species) have instituted an annual 50% population commercial reduction or cull of its new-born pups and adult bulls via the inhumane and internationally illegal practice of clubbing baby seals in their nursery habitats.
       Unlike the Canadian sealers, Cape fur seals were almost extinct in 1900 through sealers harvesting on them in their natural habitat - islands. Current sealing methods, would not be possible, hence why seals in the majority are banned to Namibia's mainland beaches, to await their annual slaughter.
       As far back as 1971, the US banned imports of Seal Products from South Africa and Namibia, as under the US Marine Mammal Protection Act regulations, it is a crime to club or kill seal pups still nursing or suckling in their breeding habitats. Europe likewise, banned baby seal imports in 1983. As did, the remaining sealing countries (Canada, Greenland, Russia and Norway) who wrote into their sealing regulations the banning of clubbing "baby seals in nurseries". Likewise, during a Commission on Sealing enquiry held in 1990 in South Africa, where 11 top marine scientists recommended that the Cape fur seals be managed by both countries (Namibia and South Africa) as one population under one management policy, which lead to South Africa ending its commercial seal culling policy in 1990. Already 99% of seals former habitats (offshore island colonies) remains extinct.
      The world had hoped this practice of clubbing nursing baby seals had ended worldwide. Through a loop-hole in European legislation, imports of baby Cape fur seal products had been omitted (replacing banned Harp and Hooded seal products), primarily due to the fact, that most European legislators had never heard of Cape fur seals or culling policies in southern Africa. Indeed, Namibian fisheries official (Dr BJ Van Zyl), have stated that since Namibia's independence in 1990, "When the current concessionaires became involved in sealing in 1990, the Industry was non-existent. No market existed for any of the raw product, other than male genitals".
      The question therefore, is Namibia's sealing policy based on a quirk in the European legislation that banned baby seal imports?
      Last year, group CEO Stephen Lussier of De Beers Diamonds (the largest contributor to Namibia's GDP) wrote to Seal Alert-SA stating, "De Beers does not support any seal culling activities and like you, I cannot help but be moved by the images you have seen". Shortly thereafter, Germany became the third country to ban imports of specifically Cape fur seal products, of the four largest international tourism countries to Namibia.
      In response, Namibia's Fishery Minister Abraham Iyambo replied, "If Culling seals is a problem, the solution is to eat them".
Seal Alert-SA has just received confirmation that the 4th largest, tourism country to Namibia, the Netherlands will be implementing a Cape fur Seal product import ban via its Environmental Minister Verburg within the coming weeks
see this link .

International Tourists Visiting Cape Cross Seal Colony

      Namibia now has the dubious distinction of on the one hand, charging its international tourists a fee to see the wild seals, but not before the commercial sealers have gone into the seals breeding and nursing habitat, rounded up a 1000 baby seals each morning between 5am and 10am for the next 165 days on an 85 000 pup quota, clubbing them all death and covering up the blood soaked sand, before opening the gate to paying tourists. Which the majority of civil-minded international tourists to Namibia would find it a travesty, considering the recent banning by their countries of seal imports.
      In a further quirk, these same tourists are restricted from entering the Diamond restricted area, as well as their camera's and cellphone, but sealers can go in daily with knives, wooden clubs and guns where some 50% of the seal quota is slaughtered.
      Last year the Minister, although claiming the Namibian seal culling program, was scientific and in accordance with the constitution (when many South African scientists disagree). Sealers were forced to bury up to 900 seal carcasses a day and reported being unable to fill the quota set by government (the largest to date of 85 000 pups). Government moved quickly to bulldoze the seal carcasses into mass beach graves. Undertaking to scientifically investigate the causes of this the 7th mass die-off from starvation since 1988. Shortly thereafter the Minister announced that Namibian fishery researchers had concluded that the seals died of starvation, and that pups were only growing at 10% of their normal rate, and it was doubted that any of this year's cohort of pups would survive to weaning age. Likewise Namibian scientists are prevented from raising opposition to the cull.
     In addition, the same fisheries Minister announced that the pelagic fish stocks had not recovered, from what was once one of the most productive fishing grounds in the world, and which used to account for a major portion of the seal's natural foraging diet.
    In context therefore, considering that between one half and one third of the Cape fur seal population is already dying/starving, the continued collapse of fisheries and the threats posed by global warming on the seas. Is it intelligent and in accordance with sound management for Namibia to continue with a population reduction cull of its seal population? Should it not protect seals, like any other marine mammal it protects (whales, dolphins even the White shark) including numerous species of seabirds - who all consume fish stocks?
    Should a single Fisheries Minister be allowed to cause the extinction of the only species of seal found breeding on the African continent?
    A far simpler and intelligent solution, (if the stench of rotting seal carcasses on these forced mainland colonies is the motive behind Namibian mass-cull) would be for the fisheries Minister to allow seals to return to their former banned island colonies, and allow these seals, which have so effectively done so in the past, to control, their own population and numbers. With the added benefit Seal Island eco-tourism boat-trips, and the sustainable revenue it would bring.
   Will the Namibian Fisheries Ministry come in-line with international consensus, and announce an end to its Seal Cull policy, or simply award an even larger clubbing quota for 2007, starting on July 1.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA