South Africa Shuts the Door on Namibia's Wasteful Illegal Seal Imports

Seal Alert-SA, Press Release, July 5, 2007

          The pressure and international awareness is certainly increasing on Namibia to announce an end to its seal cull. The latest article by Stephanie Nolan of the Canadian newspaper GlobeandMail, is clearly damaging to Namibia's image internationally. See excellent article, "Seal Hunt Central - Try Namibia ?
What is more Seal Alert-SA has been contacted by Africa -NBC Television for a business television report program, as well as BILD in Germany and the Economist in Namibia. In addition, a BoycottNamibia website will soon be launched.

South Africa Shuts the Door
 on Namibia's Wasteful Illegal Seal Imports
unhygienic disease infested blood soaked factory floors lead directly
to baby seal boilers for the manufacture of omega-3 health capsules


       Such is the wastefulness of Namibia's sealing industry, that in the early 1990s, 63% of the weight of pups, and 75% of the weight of bulls was dumped as waste. Although listed a few years earlier as an endangered species in 1977 with the Convention In Trade of Endangered Species (CITES). In 1974 for example some baby seal carcasses were sold for pet food at 30 cents (SA rands) per kg. Fearing public condemnation at this obscene waste of an endangered wildlife species (recovering from near extinction), Namibian Fisheries quickly introduced legislation into the sealing regulations requiring sealers to utilize the whole seal carcass.
      Seal meat was turned into livestock fodder and petfood. Baby seal pelts were salted and exported to Europe. Bull seal genitals were exported to the east and bull skins were sent to a tannery in South Africa to be made into seal-shoes. Baby seal carcasses were also boiled in fat pressure-cookers to make Omega-3 health capsules. Sealers throughout the 1990s earned less than 8 SA rand for each baby seal skin and 12 SA rand for the meat. Total annual income for the three-man sealing industry was N$600 000 or USD $85 000.
     In context, for example, just 17 tons of seaweed that naturally washes ashore and equally harvested in Namibia, earned more than 38 000 baby seal skins and 253 tons of seal meat. Namibia has exported between 300 - 900 tons of seal meat fodder per annum.
    With no fashion content to these black, brown or grey baby seal skins and banned from import into the US, Namibian sealers struggled to find export markets. Resulting in numerous illegal and criminal exports. For example 5000 skins were seized by the US customs in 2002, in 2003, South Africa twice criminally convicted an importer for the illegal imports of these seal skins from Namibian sealers. Namibian officials simply turned a blind-eye to these international transgressions and the flouting of international law.
    Ignoring the mass die-offs in 2000, where 95% of the pups died and half the adult seal population. Namibian sealers continued to market and export Omega-3 seal-oil capsules, touting these as having health benefits, ignoring in the process, 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". Noting world renounced expert on Streptococcus that this disease increases substantially after the animal has died. various strains of Streptococcus has killed people before.
    Aware that Namibian sealers are continuing to flout South African moratorium on sealing and its ban on imports of seal products, via sending seal skins illegally to a tannery for processing in South Africa, and a further 900 tons of seal meat for use in the livestock and petfood industries.
    Seal Alert-SA has contacted CITES, the following reply was received from John Seller/Cites Anti-smuggling, Fraud and Organization Crime section, "Whilst I await further information from Namibia, I have been advised that the CITES authorities were not previously aware of the seizures that you say occurred in South Africa and the United States of America. Now that this has been brought to their attention, they will look into the matter".
   Seal Alert-SA further contacted South African authorities. We have just received the following email (see below). In a meeting with Theresa Akkers of Marine and Coastal Management assurances were given that MCM would investigate these illegal imports. Seal Alert-SA as well will mount its own undercover surveillance operation to track the shipments from these sealers into South Africa illegally.
    The point here, is that Namibia's baby seal culling three-man industry is back to its obscenely wasteful disregard and harvest of these endangered seals, for as these illegal imports will be halted in South Africa, 63% of the weight of pups and 75% of the weight of bulls, has no viable market and will therefore be discarded once again, in violation of Namibia's own sealing regulations.
From: "Mpho Tjiane"
Cc: "Magdel Boshoff"; "Sonja Meintjes" , ; john.caldwell@unep-wcmc.or
Sent: Monday, July 02, 2007 3:40 PM
Subject: Cape fur Seal

As far as we know the Department has not issued any CITES import permit in regards to the above mentioned  species hence no data has been recorded. I spoke to Marine and Costal Management they also have not issued any CITES import permits for this species.

I hope you find this in order.
Kind Regards
Mpho Tjiane
Department Of Environmental Affairs and Tourism
Directorate: Compliance and Monitoring
Private Bag X447
Tel.:  27 12 310-3221
Fax:  27 12 320-7026
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
27-21-790 8774

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Seal Alert SA
Date: July 4, 2007

Marine Scientists Refute - Namibian's Minister Claimed Fishery Losses Through Seal Predation

Seal Alert-SA Press Release, July 4, 2007.
     Things are really hotting up. Public protests and posters up on the star-wall was the start. Dutch and German import bans the beginning. Excellent articles in The Star, News 24, The Cape Times, German Media, The Namibian, Radio 702, The Mercury, and on Legal Brief. Weekend Argus carried stories, as did an excellent article by Eleanor Momberg of the Sunday Independent, with headlines screaming, "Ravaged by starvation, Namibia's rapidly shrinking population of Cape fur seals is accussed of out-fishing the high-tech trawler fleets" with four massive pics of sealers clubbing baby seals. More is coming, including maybe CNN, and The Namibian just published an excellent piece written by Adam Hartman, "Word Maths, Doesn't Add Up - Animal Activists", please click on link to read full story, To which the below answers all.

Marine Scientists Refute
Namibian's Minister Claimed Fishery Losses Through Seal Predation

As anger grows about the continuing baby seal cull in Namibia in 2007 and disregard the Ministry has towards pleas for a civilised-society,
 frustrated 'Seal-Mom's' use cosmetic make-up to deface Namibian Commission Walls in the dead of night

'Seal-Mom's' hard at work outside the Namibian High Commission in South Africa

         Upon announcing a continued 80 000 baby seal cull, starting July 1, 2007, rolling for next three years. Information Minister Netumbo Nandi-Ndaitwah motivated this by stating, "The sharp increase of the seal population is endangering the fishing industry because the seals kill (not eat) around 900 000 tons of fish each year".
        Francois Hugo of Seal Alert-SA replies, number 1) baby seals dont eat fish they suckle milk from their mothers, 2) the seal population has been in decline since 1993, 3) the mass starvation of 95% of the pups and half the adult seals last year implies they ate very little fish 4) Namibia's doubling of fishing quotas over the last decade and a half, from 300 000 tons to 600 000 tons, is the sole cause for the current fishing industries endangerment, and the threat to seals future survival. 
      The Seals alleged 900 000 ton consumption of fish annually (half of which is non-commercial fish species), is simple that of a computer model, that has no basis in a starving seals reality.
       It is Namibia's doubled fishery capacity and landings since independence that should be modelled.
       In the latest scientific published fish consumption model for Cape fur seals (published in June 2006), a study carried out over an 8-year period in the three seal culling mainland colonies of Namibia, two South African marine scientists and one Namibian scientist, who heads the Marine Mammal section at the Namibian Ministry of Fisheries, refute the Information Minister's seal consumption claims.
      The conclusions of their research states, "Although seals and fisheries utilize the same commercial prey resources, this does not automatically imply that there is competition between them. To determine the extent to which competition exists between seals and fisheries, additional information is required, such as fish distribution and abundance, feeding effort, amount of fish utilized and size classes utilized by seals and fisheries in time and space, the response of fish to changes in predation rate, the response of seals, fisheries and other predators (snoek, hake, sharks, seabirds, whales and dolphins) to changes in fish abundance, and the response of the market to fish supply.
Unless all this information, which is usually difficult to obtain, is available, competition between two resource utilizers cannot be determined effectively".
     Although Namibian Ministry claims to be "harvesting seals in line with the principles of sustainable management under the Constitution, fully supporting the international concept of eco-system approach to fisheries management".
     The three year rolling cull of 80 000 pups and 6000 bull seals per year, can hardly be considered sustainable when considering that the 2006 mass die-off equalled that of the 2000 mass die-off and the 1994 mass die-off of the seals, in which, 95% of the pups died and over 300 000 adults (half the population of seals).
     South Africa also fully subscribes to an eco-system approach to fisheries management, has a no-cull seal policy and has written into legislation policies which aim to ensure sufficient availability of food for seals and seabirds in the wild to sustain populations (through legislation to ensure adequate escapement of prey from commercial fisheries). The result is our Cape fur seals have no starved to death in mass and we equally harvest 550 000 fishery tons. Clearly the several mass die-off's the seals have experienced since Namibia doubled its capacity and fish landings, has illustrated that Namibia has got eco-system approach management upside-down.
     The threat from over-exploited commercial fisheries to seals is even greater than the annual cull by the sealers. Natural pup mortality within first year of life, has increased >from 25% to 62%. Now 30% of all pups born die with the first month of birth, and a further 32% die, between the months of February and the July start of the sealing season. In what can be called as an environmental/overfishing cull. To this must be added Namibia's cull of 80 000 pups and 6000 bulls. What is more, the Commission on Sealing in 1990, found that just one sector of the thirteen fishing sector, the trawling sector, drowns up to 30 000 seals annually. Double this fishery capacity, as Namibia has done over the last decade, doubles the seal mortality annually. Then there is the blind-eye approach to thousands of fishermen taking arms, guns and explosives to sea to kill seals, or the thousands of seals mutilated from entanglement in discarded fishing gear each year.
     The mortality amongst Cape fur seals, just goes on and on, the highest recorded marine mammal unnatural mortality in the world.
     Namibia needs to understand one thing, what they started (culling seals) we cannot stop, but when economic and tourism boycotts start to take hold. The damage will be permanent for both seals and Namibians.
    Support the call to end it now, as South Africa did in 1990.
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA