Namibia : Gone - From This To This, Within A Year - Sent March 16, 2008
Seal Alert-SA's letter to Namibian Prime Minister - Francois.
----- Original Message -----
From: Seal Alert-SA
Sent: Sunday, March 16, 2008 10:57 AM
Subject: Namibia : Gone - From This To This, Within A Year
Dear Rt. Hon. Nahas Angula/Prime Minister of Namibia,
Gone - From This To This, Within A Year
Namibian Sealers Exterminate Namibia's Largest Seal Colony, Whilst International Tourists Are Charged To View An Empty Beach
Firstly I trust you are well.
Namibia's largest seal breeding colony, with 300 000 seals, remains active throughout the year. As you know, sealers exterminated this colony in July, 22 days into the 139 day sealing season in 2007, trying to fill the sustainable seal pup quota awarded by the Ministry of Fisheries.
Fisheries Ministry states the seal cull is necessary to protect fish stocks, yet 90% of the cull, is based on baby seals who are still suckling mothers milk and are not fish-eaters. Killing these babies will have no impact on fisheries. Where is the sense in this policy?
Prime Minister, you are on record during our meeting in July 2007, as stating I can have three days if necessary to debate the issue. Seal Alert was given no such opportunity in the Fisheries Ministry meeting in August. There too, it was minuted that we would re-meet within a few days. It has since been 7 months. The Ministry's apparent head in the sand approach hoping Seal Alert will tire and go away, is some what in poor judgement. We need to resolve this.
The upcoming annual Namibian Seal Cull in 2008. During a African television interview on Friday night on SABC Africa, of which I was a part of, I was quite shocked to hear Dr Moses Maurihungirire, Director of Marine Resources at the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries confirm that seal culling would go ahead. In addition some participants stated they believed the seal population should be reduced further by 50%, and thereafter a continued program of annual seal culls.
If these are the sentiments within the Ministry, this is of grave concern. Seal Alert is not questioning Namibia right to utilize the seals, its questioning Namibia right to exterminate a seal species. The issues are not a better way to kill seals, but how many you are killing.
With the deepest respect, Namibia's constitution only allows the sustainable utilization of a marine resource consumptively or non-consumptively. To do otherwise would be illegal. The emphasis is on the word "sustainable". The Oxford English Dictionary defines "sustainable" as, "involving the use of natural products in a way that does not harm the environment and capable of being continued with minimal long-term effect on the environment".
Largest seal colony extermination, is surely unacceptable. How exactly did this happen, and who is responsible?
Namibia's pelagic fisheries have declined from 1,5 million tons to zero, is this 'sustainable' fishing?
Namibian scientist, Dr BJ van Zyl stated in an IWMC Symposium on Culling Seals in Namibia : A Conservation Necessity, that and I quote, "The Marine Mammal Section of the Directorate of Resource Management has had the task of advising the Ministry on the management of the seal population, and of recommending harvesting levels for the different colonies. The ideal harvest levels for maintaining sustainable yields, recommend that pup harvests may be as high as 30% of the pups born on each seal colony".
When Namibia became independent in 1990, the pup population surveyed in 1989 was 184 537, divided amongst 17 seal colonies. The three largest colonies, where seal culling takes place, accounted for 122 018 pups (66% of the population). To which a "sustainable" pup cull quota of 25 000 was applied by the Ministry. This is below the 30% high or maximum sustainable yield (36 000). Records from the Ministry show, Sealers were only able to harvest, 9 790 pups.
The only explanation for this shortfall of some 61% in filling the "sustainable" pup quota, was that even at this low number, sealers found insufficient numbers of pups to kill.
It further implies, that this "maximum sustainable yield of 30% of the seal pups born", is in fact, not sustainable, as the sealers are not even able to harvest 39% of this.
16 years later, in 2006, when the Namibian Ministry announced a three year annual rolling seal cull quota (approved by Cabinet), in which it announced a 30% hike in pup quota over the previous year (65 000 to 85 000 pups). It stated that the Ministry relied upon the seal pup population survey conducted in December 2005. Which found, 205 396 seal pups on 24 colonies. With the three largest seal culling colonies accounting for 121 462 seal pups (59%). To which the Ministry applied an 85 000 pup quota, for these three colonies.
Which is 70% of the pups born, and not the 30% recommended.
Based on Dr BJ van Zyl statement at the Ministry, 30% (maximum sustainable yield) of 121 462 pups would allow Namibia to issue a seal pup quota under the constitution of Namibia, of 36 000 for 2006.
In complete disregard of the Constitution, it awarded a pup quota, at least double the sustainable recommended quota, when it awarded a pup quota of 85 000, for three years, rolling annually starting in 2006.
I trust you will see the seriousness of these actions and their unlawfulness under the Constitution of Namibia?
The following year, Minister Abraham Iyambo signed a letter on the 13 November 2007, to the Netherlands Minister Gerda Verburg, that stated and I quote, "According to our surveys 120 000 pups (born December 2006)".
Clearly with the seal population in decline by a massive 44% over the previous year (205 396 to 120 000 pups). Under the Constitution Namibia loses all rights to harvest or cull seals, as the population is in severe decline.
Instead the Ministry of Fisheries announces only a 6% reduction in pup quota of 5000 pups, and awards an 80 000 pup quota for 2007 (85 000 to 80 000).
Ignoring this decline (which is unethical), but if based purely on this number, with no comparison to population trends of past. The 30% high sustainable pup quota, would have consisted of the following. 120 000 pups surveyed in 2006. Of which about 60% occurs on the three sealing colonies. Which implies that this number is, 72 000 pups. 30% of this, would have allowed the Ministry (ignoring the decline), of a pup quota of 21 600, for the 2007 pup sealing season.
Instead it awarded a pup quota of 80 000 pups, nearly quadruple, the sustainable yield for these seal colonies, according to your own Ministry and scientists.
The result, largest seal colony exterminated.
In reality, since Namibia's independence in 1990, although the seal population is some 44% lower (205 396 - 120 000). Pup quotas have risen 240% (25 000 to 85 000). On actual pups killed, it has risen over 700% (9 790 to 77 800).
Clearly this is in gross violation of Namibia's own Constitution which allows only for the sustainable utilization of a marine resource.
As Seal Alert-SA is not privy to the resultants of the December 2007 pup count, we can only surmise that as fisheries and fish stocks is still depleted, that the seal population would continue with this downward trend and reveal a pup population, even lower than the 120 000 pups surveyed in December 2006, according to the Ministry.
Constitutionally it is imperative that Namibia publicly announces an end to its seal culling policy, economically it is already directly jeopardizing the N$ 2 million earned via the 70 000 tourists now unable to view the seals (non-consumptively) at Namibia's once, largest mainland seal colony - Cape Cross.
If you as the Prime Minister of Namibia, are still in any doubt as to the seriousness or sustainability of Namibia's seal cull policy, please consider the following. Of the 120 000 seal pups surveyed on all seal colonies in Namibia, born in December 2006. Namibian Fisheries scientist, Dr Carola Kirchner, gave a presentation where she had found the average pup natural mortality since the 1970s (1972 - 2006), to be on average, 44%, prior to the start of sealing season (January to July). Bearing in mind latest scientific research by Namibian scientists conducted over the last 5 years, shows natural pup mortality has increased to 62% over this same period.
Subtract 44% (Dr Kirchner's average since 1970s) natural mortality from the 120 000 pups (latest survey). This leaves 67 200 seal pups possibly alive, amongst all 24 seal colonies in Namibia, by start of the annual sealing season on July 1, 2008. To which Namibia has announced in 2006, a three year rolling quota of 85 000 pups per year. A quota, that exceeds the number of pups alive. Bear in mind, this illustration covers the entire Namibia seal population. When in reality, it is far worse, as sealing only takes place on the three largest seal colonies where 60% of the pup production occurs.
If this reality, is taken into account, 120 000 pups (total pup population 2006 in Namibia on 24 seal colonies). Of which 60% occurs on the 3 sealing colonies, which is 72 000 pups, born December 2006 (we have no data for 2007). Of these, 44% will die from natural causes, leaving at best, 40 000 pups alive by start of sealing on July 1, 2008. To which if the Ministry awards an 85 000 pup quota (2006) or an 80 000 pup quota (2007). This quota will not only see the complete extermination of all seal pups from these three largest mainland seal colonies, representing 60% of Namibia seal population, but in fact exceed it by double.
Clearly the situation is out of control. I would appreciate your position on this.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
link to sealmancam