Report from Francois Hugo
Seal Alert South Africa
The Seals at the tip of Africa, have endured over 600-years of barbaric clubbing, disturbance, displacement, killing, persecution and unbelievable cruelty, on February 11, 2004, the South African Government released it's new draft policy on SEALS.
The Seals nightmare is about to end. The South African Government, Minister Valli Moosa are to be highly commended, and in particular Horst Kleinschmidt/head of Marine and Coastal management for his courageous decision to review the seals.
For the first time, in the history of man's exploitation of this species, this species status could forever be changed. Seal Alert-SA, in particular wishes to thank Dr Herbert Henrich and Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd, IFAW, and Advocate Gary Pienaar of the Public Protectors Office, for keeping up the pressure for 5-years in the struggle, together with the thousands who have responded to the worthy cause from around the world, I just wish I could list you all.
The gallant media, that has written over 70 newspaper articles, shoved seals into headline news, and produced two excellent investigative prime time television programs, as well as the Talk show hosts.
The policy is entitled:
NATIONAL POLICY FOR SEALS, SEABIRDS AND SHOREBIRDS IN SOUTH AFRICA
This policy will guide the future of seals at the tip of Africa for decades to come. The South African government is inviting comments on the draft policy and your comments would be helpful to ensure these wonderful creatures a peaceful future.
IN ADDITION - this policy presents a wonderful opportunity to seek to request South Africa, which is the financial powerhouse in Africa, to exert some pressure on Namibia to cease it's COMMERCIAL SEAL HARVESTING of 67 000 seal pups, and to allow this species to be managed as one whole Southern African Seal population, in a civilized conservation society manner.
COMMENTS ARE NEEDED BY THE END OF MARCH 2004, BUT PLEASE RATHER REPLY PROMPTLY.
The draft policy is lengthy and Francois would be happy to send it to you in its entirety with his comments. Please do e-mail him if you would like a copy.
But for those of you who would like to help without wading into the scientific and bureaucratese of a government paper, Francois Hugo has listed his concerns to be addressed to Mr. Horst Kleinschmidt.
- The extinction of 11 out of 20 offshore seal islands needs to be addressed.
- The decline of 6 of the 9 remaining offshore seal islands needs to be addressed, some as much as 92%, overall by 62%.
- The unnatural growth of the mainland colonies needs to be addressed, with the resultant disease transmission, unnatural predation by land predators and gene depletion, and harem bull to cow reduction, and the mass starvation deaths of pups.
- Official published records needs to be kept of all seals washed ashore dead.
- Rehabilitation facilities, should be separate for Seabirds and Seals, and permits issued for each island colony. Seals from different colonies should not be mixed during rehabilitation.
- Firearms should be banned from fishing.
- Culling of seals preying naturally on seabirds should not be considered, alternative conservation methods should be adopted to protect the species.
- Only overseas certified vets, should only be allowed to assist seals, as none are qualified in SA at present. Domestic vets should be banned from taking in stranded seals, due to lack of facilities, expertise and disease requirements.
- Commercial fishing should be controlled around breeding islands.
- Seal Eco-tourism needs to be conducted under a strict code with permit conditions.
- All marine wildlife should be encouraged to return to their offshore islands, commercial activity should be restricted.
- Official records of populations with aerial photographs should be kept of each island separately, and released publicly.
- All killing of seals by fisherman should be investigated and arrests made. All incidental killing of seals, must be officially documented and released publicly, stating which fishing licensed company was involved.
- The diameter size of nets needs to be address, the discardance of nets and fishing line, at sea and in harbours needs to be addressed.
- All Recreational fishing activity for fish within a harbour should be banned, as it causes unnecessary pollution and seal entanglement.
- Box strapping used by the tuna fisheries, and then discarded needs to be addressed and changed to bio-degradable material.
- Clear informative signage with Rescue organization details on public slipways, and common beaches where marine mammals strand, should be erected and maintained.
- Only permitted individuals connected to a permitted Seal Rehabilitation Facility should remove dead or alive seals from coastlines, and only in their permitted area colony.
- All stranded seals should be kept in an official register.
- Suitable coastline land should be earmarked for suitable Seal and Sea-Bird Rehabilitation facilities, opposite or near to each island colony, and this should be made available on a leased basis, by national government.
- The requirement of installing 24-hour on-board security surveillance of CCTV cameras, to monitor fishing operations at sea, should be considered.
- The control of all the islands should fall under one department.
- The Seal population in Southern Africa should be managed as one whole population, Namibia should be forced to cease sealing, and adopt a conservation approach to seals instead.
- No islands should be exclusively earmarked for seal or seabird conservation.
- All mainland seal or seabird colonies should be discouraged.
- All organizations within South Africa keeping seals captive, should be re-assessed.
- A senior fisheries officer should be appointed for each island colony and immediate surrounding coastline separately.
- Each colony, should be officially counted every 2-years, and the information released publicly.
- All scientific research and island disturbance, should be approved by a committee, made up of the community, scientists and welfare ngo's.