From: SEAL ALERT-SA
Subject: Last Endangered Cape Fur Seal Left On South Africa's Oldest Seal Colony - MCM Still Ignores The Issue
Date: February 21, 2008

 
----- Original Message -----
From:
Seal Alert-SA
To: Pamela Yako
Cc:
Daan Vreugdenhil ; jbell@ifaw.org ; fau@nspca.co.za ; clairebass@wspa.org.uk ; mark.glover@dial.pipex.com ; garyp@pprotect.org ; stoffelf@pprotect.org ; lawrenceM@pprotect.pwv.gov.za
Sent: Friday, February 22, 2008 1:35 AM
Subject: Last Endangered Cape Fur Seal Left On South Africa's Oldest Seal Colony - MCM Still Ignores The Issue

Dear Pam Yako, Director General Department of Environmental Affairs & Tourism,
 
     The eradication of seals from this colony 8 years in a row. Is the final straw. What should have been constructive like-minded thinking between the organizations Seal Alert, MCM and SPCA - has turned into yet another example of MCM could not care less with regard to seals. There is clearly no co-operation between MCM and ourselves. The Public Protectors findings in his report 51 tabled with your Ministry clearly states my complaints against MCM are justified. A decade of MCM refusing to grant Seal Alert-SA a rescue permit and the very latest banning our use of jetski's for seal patrols, whilst permitting tourists to hire jetski's in the same area. I could go on and on, and on.
 
     A wasted excercise. Seal Alert-SA will continue to protect, conserve and rescue these endangered seals. We will have no further dealings with MCM.
 
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
Dear All Cape Fur Seal Supporters,

Last Endangered Cape Fur Seal Left On South Africa's Oldest Seal Colony - MCM Still Ignores The Issue
 
 
    A lone endangered Cape fur seal remains

 
    Finally, the only thing Seal Alert-SA and MCM can agree on is that on the 12 February 2008, the last remaining alive seal was seen on the Elands Bay seal colony.
 
    South African government scientists claim 93% of the Cape fur seals live on the west coast of southern Africa, and that their preferred breeding habitat is offshore islands, and that no mainland seal colonies existed prior to 1940.
 
    Islands off the Cape west coast, where hence the Cape fur seals derived their name, occur along a narrow stretch of 300km of coastline. A total of 36 islands occur along 3000km off the southern African coastline, 85% of these, occur within the narrow strip of coast, known as the Cape west coast. Sealers exterminated all these offshore seal colonies, causing government and the United Nations to list Cape fur seals as an endangered species in 1977, with its appendix II listing with the Convention in Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).
 
    The largest island in this area (also the largest island in southern Africa) still carries the name of Seal Island, known as the world famous Robben Island (Robbe being the Dutch word for seal), a protected Unesco World Heritage Site - Extinct to the Cape fur seals.
 
    99% of their former island habitat equally remains extinct. Although the seal population has recovered elsewhere, it has also, in the last 10 years declined 50%, not a single former seal island colony has been re-colonised by the seals. Partly due to government banning seals from their preferred endemic breeding habitat, and partly to facilitate mass seal culls on the mainland.
 
    With Seal Alert-SA prevented from doing Seal Rescue officially or undertaking Patrols in these high security areas or Marine Protected Areas (although we still do). Our task is not easy.


Near Elands Bay, a baby seal flipper bone dating back 5 million years
 

    Within this Cape west coast region, Professor Andy Smith, head of the Archeological Department at the University of Cape Town, discovered that the Khoi-San tribes that inhabited this region over 100 000 years ago prized the meat and fat of these seal pups, as per his discoveries in a bushman cave overlooking the seal colony at Elands Bay.
 
     Making this seal colony, culturally and our heritage, the oldest known Seal Colony for this species. All this means absolutely nothing to MCM.
 
     Seal Alert-SA attention was first drawn to this colony in 2000. When a concerned member of the public discovered over 26 shot seals (photographed them) and recovered .22mm (rifle) shell casings lying amongst the recently shot seals. She contacted Seal Alert-SA after attempting to have the authorities investigate these criminal acts, only to be fobbed off and ignored.
 
     She made a sworn affidavit at the Police Station and handed Seal Alert-SA the .22mm shell casings.
 
     Marine and Coastal Management's official response from the Department of Environment and Tourism,  8 years later  -


 
     Did MCM contact Seal Alert-SA during its "thorough investigation" to obtain any of its evidence gathered over 8 years, of course not, prior to even visiting the colony it was determined it was all o'natural. The biggest joke of their 'investigation' is their claim that all dead seals were yearling pups.
 
     This same concern for the protection and conservation of our seals, was confirmed 4 years earlier, when Seal Alert-SA attempted to obtain national exposure to this issue (after it too was fobbed off by MCM), via a television program on SABC's 50/50 (a wildlife program), then Director General of MCM, Horst Kleinschmidt, equally head of the International Whaling Commission Conservation department, and who is now, an advisor and board-member to Seashepherd Conservation Society, stated, "
Seals are not endangered. But if they were endangered, we would employ a totally different regime of looking after them".
 
     This is what I described whilst being filmed at the seal colony for this program, "And wherever we’re walking we are just finding dead bodies in every pool. Three seals dead in a pool. Another pup, another female, another bull. The carnage of the death just doesn’t stop here".
 
     Attempting to get further help, Seal Alert-SA approached the International Fund for Animal Welfare here in South Africa, and spoke to its director Jason Bell live on TV, whilst showing him the video evidence of the seal carnage at Elands Bay, he was visually shocked, and said, "We know that MCM does not have the capacity to deal with this alone. In fact their seal biologists, dedicated seal biologists, are not even working on seals specifically anymore. And where they are they’re doing very limited research. And that’s a serious capacity issue. And I think the potential still exists. I don’t think this is a lost battle. I think the potential does exist to take this issue forward in a proactive way and to really make a difference at the end of the day".

 
 
 
 

     Seal Alert-SA, its supporters and a number of wildlife film-makers have made an annual trip to this colony situated 270km away, in an effort to document, record and save this species. Our most internationally famous seal pup, Mumkin, seen on wildlife television programs across the world, spanning from Korea to Europe to the United States of America (loved by all), was rescued from this colony. Mumkin, now in his 4th year and growing into a big bull, still alive, and happily living off the facilities provided by Seal Alert-SA at its Seal Centre base in Hout Bay.

 

     Not far from Elands Bay, the next seal colony is situated a little further up the west coast at Lambert's Bay and on Penguin Island, named after the seals were exterminated. Here in an effort to uplift the fishing community from poverty, after fishing factories turned into potatoe chip peeling factories. The department of Environmental Affairs decided to pump millions into a tourist viewing facility, in the belief that flocks of tourists wanted to see gannets on this former penguin, former seal island (hopefully as an added bonus the gannets would also produce more guano for fertilizer), yet there was one problem, seals were attempting to return to this colony. Solution hire a shooter, not a qualified marksman, full time, to shot and shoo the seals away (using public money).
 
    Now that's Seal Protection and Conservation for you, MCM style.
 
     Whilst this is going on, on the opposite side to Elands Bay, the next seal colony lies on a small group of rocks known as Paternoster rocks (note not an island). Seal Alert-SA flew over this colony in March 2004 and recorded the pic above on the left. In December 2007, MCM issues a media appeal, not on its website, not in the national media, but in a small community paper, offering a reward for information on which fishermen shot 180 seals. The pic on the right above, shows far more than 180 seals were shot, in fact it looks like thousands, in fact the entire colony has virtually been wiped out, at the peak of the seal pupping and breeding time.
 
     Round one, two and three, to MCM our seal protectors. Three seal colonies side by side, exterminated.
 
     Even though these two incidents occurred side by side in the same month, even with MCM being forced to offer a reward, the Elands Bay seal death's were all naturally yearlings and natural deaths.

 

      Back at Elands Bay, and the few days old baby pup referred to, discovered strangled to death by members of the public, after this incident went public in the local media. MCM dispatched one of its inspectors to seek out and remove any evidence of this rope. Caught in the act, as the pic on the right shows. To claim the baby pup was strangled after death, is even more sick and perverted.

 

     The request by Seal Alert-SA and the SPCA to MCM to fence off this seal colony and develop an tourist viewing facility to help protect and promote the conservation of this species, has as per their letter, officially fallen on deaf ears. Clearly MCM sees no economic eco-tourism potential in these endangered Cape fur seals.
 
      Yet, readily sees economic potential in tourists viewing seabirds with their development of the Penguin Colony near Simonstown and the Gannet Colony at Lambert's Bay, even developing gannet decoys to lure the gannets back. Hout Bay, on the other end was privately developed and which MCM plays no part on levying this seal viewing industry (worth R30 million annually) , such is its disdain for seals - it wants no part of their revenue income producing potential.
 
     Whilst regulations exist for shark cage diving and whale watching, no exists for seal viewing.
 
     Yes, each year this ancient seal (at Elands Bay) colony does collapse, not because of seals foraging, but because man-kind has either killed them off or frightened them away. Yet each year, cows return to have their pups as nature intended, mate with bulls, and hope to be able to nurse their pups over the coming 12 months, safely - unfortunately, thanks to MCM, nothing will survive.
 
     Perhaps the issue is simply, as MCM is actually an ex-Sea Fisheries department, its only expertise is in awarding exploitive fishing quotas. They know no other concept of conservation. To them they simply estimate a population and then award a quota. This makes good conservation sense to them. As sealing has stopped in South Africa, in MCM's eyes the Cape fur seals no longer have any economic potential, and therefore no research or protection is needed, for these "fish stealing thieves" or perhaps it is because government scientists are not aware that this is an endangered species (clearly their ex-Director General wasn't)  or like their confused Namibian counter-parts, think seals are game, to be hunted with clubs, rifle and bow&arrow, large and baby small.
 
     It is something even more pathetic, when MCM continued to cull millions of baby seals, after the US banned all imports in 1972 (for sound scientific reason and humaneness), to have the EU Scientific Food & Safety Reviews describe how inhumane sealing is, a practice MCM continued until 1990 - is shocking
 
     It is somewhat pathetic when MCM quotes the Sea birds and Seal Protection Act dating back to 1973, as its conservation legislation to protect Cape fur seals. When this legislation was introduced to facilitate government handing over its millions of baby seal clubbing activity to private individual concessionaires, to continue their effective seal clubbing protection policy, via their permit and quota system. Whilst informing Seal Alert-SA under the Act it would be a criminal offence to rescue seals.
 
    One thing is certain, the future of Cape fur seals lies in the hands of the international public and the leading organization Seal Alert-SA. We clearly need to grow stronger and larger to fund, where government ignores or acts irresponsibly, and do what is required to conserve this amazing species of seal, found nowhere else on earth.
 
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
27-21-790 8774