WAPFSA wrote a letter to the Minister of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment with regard to Namibia’s decision to kill 86000 Cape Fur Seals for commercial purposes.
The decision has been taken by the Namibian government to slaughter 86000 Cape fur seals despite a decrease in demand for seal pups and the mounting opposition from conservationists. The brutal financially motivated killing of Cape fur seals in Namibia should be of concern to us all, because of the potential negative cascading effects on South African marine ecosystems.
One such negative effect relates to sharks. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has warned that 37.5% of the 1 200 known species of sharks are threatened with extinction. South Africa is a Party to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, also known as the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) with the objective to conserve migratory species throughout their ranges, including sharks that are listed in CMS Appendix I and II; according to CMS’s Article 2 and 2(2) and 2(3), (Parties) must take action,
“whenever possible and appropriate […] paying special attention to migratory species the conservation status of which is unfavourable and taking individually or in cooperation appropriate and necessary steps to conserve such species and their habitat [..] to avoid any migratory species becoming endangered; […] shall endeavour to provide immediate protection for migratory species included in Appendix I and […] shall endeavour to conclude agreements covering the conservation and management of migratory species included in Appendix II.
Namibia is one of a few countries that are “participating non-parties” to the CMS which implies that they are party to one or more of the agreements, and/or have signed one or more of the MOUs, for example, they have signed an MOU for the protection of the Atlantic Turtle.
The members of the Wildlife Animal Protection Forum South Africa (WAPFSA) recently prepared comments which were delivered to the South African Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) on the Shark Biodiversity Management Plan, drafted in order to protect sharks. In direct contrast, Namibia’s Ministry of Fisheries approved a quota for the harvesting or culling of 80 000 seal pups and 6000 seal bulls to commence from the 1st of July 2023 and to continue till November. The Cape fur seal is one of the primary sources of food for many large sharks including the great white shark.
On the 11th of July 2023, WAPFSA issued a public statement on the planned killing of seals in Namibia (see also Annexure I). The statement questioned the non-transparent and unscientific decision-making process with regard to this cruel and unacceptable slaughter.
Two colonies of seals will be targeted during the planned slaughter period, the Cape Cross colony and the Walvis Bay colony, both near Swakopmund. Of further concern is that both of these areas have a history of Cape fur seal mass mortality. In 2020 and 2022, the phenomena of die-offs of the most common apex predator concerned local and international experts.
AN UNJUSTIFIABLE MASSACRE
According to scientific articles, the exploitation of seal body parts for trade in Southern Africa is a colonial relic dating back to the 17th century. Seals were slaughtered indiscriminately by sailors, for skins, meat and oil and for three centuries until 1899.
The slaughter in the modern day continues even though it is socially unacceptable and highly contested. The actual slaughter, paradoxically, takes place inside nature reserves; before sunrise, away from eyewitnesses, while the beaches are closed.
The Cape fur seals, who are not nocturnal mammals, are surprised in the dark or predawn. Terrified pups are rounded up, forcibly separated from their mothers, and violently beaten to death while the mothers watch from a short distance, and helplessly exchange mother–pup vocal highly distressed calls.
Scientific research has indicated that these marine mammals are sentient, alert and able to discriminate calls with high acoustic similarity and identify their offspring even in extremely large and numerous colonies. The call is the primary identification signal between mother and pup. Labourers are employed to club the pup to death or kill them with pick handles or shoot them. Pups get so terrified that they vomit their mothers’ milk in fear. Once the slaughter for the day is completed, the seal carcasses are piled up, taken away from the area by trucks and the blood is cleaned and removed before the oblivious tourists arrive.
The Cape Fur Seal, and associated predators, range across the oceans of Southern Africa. The Cape fur seal massacre in Namibia is promoted by short-sighted economic agendas, and it represents a threat to fragile local and extended ecosystems as well as to endangered species which are endemic to South Africa.
The unjustified massacre of the Cape fur seal raises huge ethical, animal and human welfare, well-being and environmental concerns.
The undersigning members of WAPFSA urge the DFFE Ministry to examine its objectives in terms of NEM:BA, to call for the protection of the Cape fur seal and to take all possible actions to halt stop this barbaric, unscientific and irresponsible massacre now, and to encourage long-term agreements to prevent this from happening in the future.
©WAPFSA 2023. All Rights Reserved.