Seal Alert-SA Plan to End the Namibian Seal Slaughter
Subject: The Seal Alert-SA Seal Plan
August 7, 2006
    With so much going on I think it is time to reflect after 30 days into this campaign. Since 1999 ....
    Seal Alert-SA did not want to make the mistakes made in 1990 - where the campaign left the seals on these unnatural mainland colonies, Namibia simply increased its sealing quota, ignored the issue that seals were dying of mass starvation, drowning in nets, shot by fishermen and banned from islands. Hence why I have never addressed the Namibian Seal issue publicly - I needed to do my research first.
   I needed a solid plan that took all the above into account.
   Seal Alert-SA needed to ensure SA did not return to sealing as there was only a "temporary moratorium" on sealing. To ensure this remained. I went after the plight of seals, their stranding, their rescues, their entanglement, their banning of islands. Much fighting and arrests, and later a Pubic Protector complaint and official findings, and we had our new draft for Seal Protection - soon to become law. Although not perfect it ends sealing officially, protects islands, acknowledges starvation, protects seals food source and allows its rescue.
  The next stage was to address the illegal shooting of fishermen, resulting in just as many seals being shot illegally as clubbed - as without it what is the point on ending sealing. We have over 31 000 signatures, an official report from Public Protector supporting the banning of guns in fishing. This campaign is still underway supported greatly by OIPA in Italy. I think we will achieve our objective soon.
   The next was to get the islands opened up again, as this act alone will prevent the unnecessary washing away and drowning of over 40 000 baby pups annually on these 2% offshore small awash rocks. A natural cull of this species for decades. This has been exceedingly difficult and without it, the seals on the mainland cant return to their evolutionary path. The big stumbling block has been the declining seabird species and declining fish stocks through overfishing coming to a head, many of them, and their international classification as endangered or near extinction. This has basically created a conflict between a very strong seabird conservation movement birdlife org, wwf etc who see seals as a direct threat to seabirds on islands. The two oil spills and massive media and IFAW funding of the seabirds - did not help matters in recreating this natural balance of both seabirds and seals sharing these islands. Seabird conservationists deeply in control of all island management, corporate funding and government believe in these two species segregation. Whilst almost a complete failure - we have managed to secure one island, which alone accounts for over 57% of the island land areas and ensure 40% of the island coastline belongs to seals and there is still the 2% on offshore islands.
   The next issue was how to get seals back onto islands they have been extinct from for so long. Not easy when none of the islands are yet open for re-population. This has lead to Seal Alert-SA developing baby pup rehabilitation. Possibly the most expensive and time consuming initiatives we have undertaken. In theory it seems easy to collect thousands of washed away pups and re-locate them to "opened" previously banned islands - but in practice an entirely different scenario. Nature rules, and it does not allow group rehab. However after 5000 rescues of all age groups from baby pups of 5kg to 350 kg bulls - I have a very good working knowledge of how to work with them and help them return naturally.
   The most important aspect of our work was to somehow get a strong supporter base, in a country that honestly hates its seals or is apathetic towards them or in complete ignorance. Thanks to you, our strongest support has come from overseas, locally we have not done well. But, through all this I believe we have a very strong, if not somewhat irate (endless emails) but well informed group of supporters - who know this species of seal well, and deeply care for it - our strongest foundation.
   Namibia. I sat with a difficulty after years of fighting with scientists and government officials to achieve the above - information on population trends had dried up. I was stuck with data from 1972 to 1997. I needed the last decade of population trends and could not get them. A few weeks ago we had a break and got some basic data, which I was then able to determine that the 2006 slaughter would be a genocide. Worse than expected without a budget or funds, I had to act.
   So started the Namibia campaign, thanks to some excellent people in the media. They know who they are - sadly some in the media proved to be down-right pathetic. But I think we have had a good 30 days. Although 20 000 seals have lost their lives and the sealing continues - we have gained vital and valuable info - which we are now using to save them.
   Media exposure continued is the most vital key to ending it. Next is immense pressure on CITES with clear hard facts. Third is De Beers the biggest contributor to GDP - we are half-way there with the letter. SPCA, IFAW, WWF, IUCN, MCM or SA government will not step up to the plate and help end it. Therefore we must place our efforts on Media, CITES and De Beers.
   I believe so much damage has been done in the past, with "quickie" media coverage - and then silence. As Namibia who clearly has a problem with mainland seals eating twice their fisheries take - is not going to give in - when they know people like IFAW are not really serious about ending it, and are just using the exposure to raise some further funding for zero effort. It is not in their interest to end it - yet. But, with sufficient pressure on them and WWF it could well soon be. 
   Namibia has to know we are serious, and this will not be a "quickie" campaign, repeated year after year. I actually dislike these org's that send letters in support and then do absolutely nothing further. It just convinces Namibia not to be concerned. One of Seal Alert-SA strong points in this campaign, is that we have not once appealed for funding and have funded this completely out of my own pocket. It must sit up there as the most successful and cheapest campaign yet undertaken thanks to all of you.
   Should all the above fail, and we get no positive results soon. Besides continued pressure. Seal Alert-SA then has only two options left. One is to concentrate on getting the islands open in SA and Namibia - and use all this mainland sealing disturbance and natural migration - to get seals naturally off the mainland in increasing numbers or to other colonies too remote to undertake effective commercial sealing ( already happening) there is a mass movement north and south. The other is if I go undercover and document all the illegal activities occurring and then seek their criminal prosecution and on conviction seek to call for its end. This would however require a substantial budget.
   Our plan is to value everyday, as everyday another 630 seals die. So whilst sealing continues, I am thinking in days or not months or next year.
   Hope this info makes things clearer.
   PS - This will never be a Seal Alert-SA victory for I am but one single person. As unknown and voiceless as the seals themselves. I am simply your eyes and ears - you are the driving force and ultimate victors please remember that - I am nothing without each and everyone of you.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA