----- Original Message -----
From: Sealalert
To: pyako @deat.gov.za ; Monde Mayekiso ; mwillemse@deat.gov.za ; Theressa Akkers
Sent: Thursday, June 14, 2007 2:54 PM
Subject: Protected Seals Mutilation Via Standard Fishing Industry Entanglement

Dear All Seal Supporters,

Protected Seal Mutilation Via Standard Fishing Industry Entanglement
six tuna tails/strapping around one innocent victim
multiple seal entangled in group at one time

   Before reading further. Your positive action via your email could put an end to a practice that has
mutilated, hurt and killed tens of thousands of protected Cape fur seals over decades. Its a part of fishing, that should not be allowed. The making and using of plastic loops to hang fish to freeze.
   For years Seal Alert-SA has campaigned Marine and Coastal Management (MCM) a department of the Environment and Tourism to bring in regulations to outlaw plastic loops used to hang fish. Which when discarded, often with the tails still attached, results in many seal mutilations and slow agonizing deaths. For years, MCM tried to protect and even conceal this despicable decades-old practice, by suggesting plastic loops originated from storm-water drains feeding into harbours. Public concern eventually forced MCM to appoint a "Seal-Team" to disentangle seals. Unfortunately, it was only implemented in one harbour, out of thirteen fishing harbours in South Africa (the most popular tourist spot - the V&A Waterfront). Over 1000 seals have been freed in the last decade alone in this single harbour (bearing in mind there is no active offshore seal colony nearby, nor is the majority of seals found within this area, and in reality represents less than 10% of those entangled).The remaining fishing harbours and three thousand kilometres of coastline - remains ignored and no seals get help.
   Recently off the Alaskan coast, a 45-ton whale was harpooned. It was later discovered that 115-years earlier this whale suffered a similar fate, with a 12,7 cm projectile embedded in its flesh all this life-time, when it was shot in 1890.
   Intentional pain, suffering or mutilation of a domestic animal by its owner, is considered a criminal and punishable offence in most countries. In other words, its illegal and criminal. Such mutilations and inflictions of cruelty, should apply equally to protected and indigenous Seals (or Marine Mammals).
   Seal Alert-SA now presents evidence, of who is responsible and requests responses are addressed to MCM to address this issue for once and for all. PLASTIC LOOPS should be banned outright in fishing - and replaced with a
single strand of rope/steel wire/chain that has two small hook-eye loops at the end for hanging.
   To MCM's credit, included in the Fishing Regulations for Handline/Pole Tuna Fisheries - 2007 (see link to regulations) 
www.mcm-deat.gov.za/rights_process/Tuna%20Pole%202007.pdf, Ecosystem Effects on Fishing : Plastic Pollution Interaction With Cape Fur Seals. They outline the size of these loops/strops and that it should be double knotted (see pic below)

    Seal Alert-SA believes a far simpler solution to this problem would be to ban completely the making of "rope or plastic loop", as there is clearly no compliance. Instead a single rope or small chain with two small loop-eye holes for hanging be created or manufactured on either side (see pic below). As a single line/rope it can be twisted or looped in normal fishing methods, but if or when discarded it remains a single straight strand of rope (thereby preventing seal entanglement). Preferably it should be manufactured to spec, in either biodegradable material or stainless steel chain, so that if discarded it sinks to the bottom.  

    Why concern yourself with all these details? Simply, because after freeing entangled seals for years, having freed hundreds if not thousands. The pain and suffering each individual animal goes through, sometime for years is unbearable. I have seen seals get entangled as young pups with these plastic fishing loops, and grow old into big bulls, deformed where their head remains small from the neck up. Secondly, as an ocean swimming marine mammal, location and disentanglement is near impossible except for the very lucky few. They cant be darted with a tranquilizer or easily capture in a net. In some cases, it has taken me over a year (a year of immense suffering) to free or disentangle one seal.
Freeing a lucky seal

     So who is the culprits? Where do these plastic loops come from? Fish Processing Factories make them up (tying plastic rope into loose loops), who then hand them to arriving fishermen to hook the freshly caught tuna/longfin etc by its tail on a hook, to be processed and freezer blasted for export/consumption. How many loops are manufactured yearly, tens of thousands or as many individual fish as is caught in a season.

Tuna hung from plastic strapping.
Note no adherence to the new regulations
(pics taken on the June 13, 2007).
Bag-fulls of used strapping awaiting seal entanglement.

     As the first (top) pic illustrates, one unfortunate bull seal was found with 6 plastics strappings around his neck, with the discarded tuna-tails. This pic provides evidence that the fishing companies are also discarding the worthless tail section (an illegal practice), with the used strapping, which obviously serves as a huge attraction to the seals, who find these discarded tails with loops attached (a source of food), which clearly causes their entanglement.

For the thousands of innocent seals suffering out there, please help put an end to this despicable practice for once and for all.

Please therefore WRITE to the below, and request their urgent attention and co-operation to ending this use of PLASTIC LOOPS.
Deputy Director of DEAT :
Pam Yako 

Deputy Director of MCM :
Dr Monde Mayekiso
Mmayekiso@deat.gov.za ; mwillemse@deat.gov.za 

Director of Offshore Fisheries MCM :
Theressa Akkers
Theressa Akkers
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
021-790 8774