(ANIMAL WELFARE/SEALS) South Africa may allow the hunting of seals after a member of Parliament recently suggested the ban on killing Cape fur seals be lifted.

Hunting Cape fur seals has been illegal for 20 years, and a group of seal conservationists associated with the Seals Of Nam organization wrote a letter to the South African government urging them to continue their lifesaving policy. The letter was signed by scientists and seal experts from all over the world, including the United States, Spain, Australia, Canada, and the U.K.

The letter requests South Africa go even further and ban the trade of all seal products. South Africa is currently a large market for these products so if they were banned, it could possibly influence Namibia (the only other country with native Cape fur seals) to cease their annual seal slaughter. Read on for more on the status of these seals and the people trying to save them.  — Global Animal

The Seals Of Nam asks South Africa to continue the ban on sealing. Photo Credit: sabreakingnews.co.za (ANIMAL WELFARE)
Cape fur seals are already threatened due to several factors, including lack of food due to climate change and illegal poaching. Photo Credit: sabreakingnews.co.za (ANIMAL WELFARE)

Seals of Nam

A powerful group of 24 scientists, seal experts and conservationists from all over the world has written to leaders of the South African government asking it to maintain its two-decade-old moratorium on killing Cape fur seals and to consider being the first African nation to introduce a ban on trade in seal products.

This comes after a Member of Parliament, Phaliso Meriam Nozibonelo, proposed to resume the killing, asserting that, “seals are the biggest poachers of some of the fish and nobody is arresting them.”.

The letter, initiated by The Seals of Nam and prepared by Harpseals.org, is signed by scientists from Spain, Australia, the US, Canada, and the UK. Conservationists and representatives from international organizations including Humane Society International, NSPCA South Africa, IFAW, Earthrace Conservation, WSPA and Earth Island Institute endorsed the letter (full list below).

The signatories to this letter represent between them, millions of people concerned about the survival, welfare and rights of seals. The letter responds to the MP’s assertions by referencing scientific studies that show that seals are critical to marine ecosystems; that the population of Cape fur seals has not risen significantly since the moratorium in South Africa began; and that the state of fish stocks depends on actions from the government in addressing over-fishing and in setting fishing quotas that account for multi-species interactions.

The letter’s signatories also request that South Africa join countries like Russia, Taiwan, Mexico, the USA and the European Union nations in prohibiting the international trade in seal products. It has been sent to the President and Deputy President of South Africa, the Minister for Trade and Industry, the Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, and the Minister of Water and Environmental Affairs.

Diana Marmorstein, Ph.D, CEO of Harpseals.org, said, “Our communication with the South African Government addresses concerns regarding the welfare of seals and the scientific evidence that sealing is inherently inhumane.

“We have also explained that, based on empirical and modelling studies, reducing seal populations by unnatural means is not likely to increase populations of fish of commercial interest. We therefore urge the government maintain the moratorium on killing Cape fur seals.”

The letter reached the South African government just days after the World Trade Organization (WTO) issued its ruling in response to Canada and Norway’s challenge to the EU ban on seal product imports.

According to the WTO ruling, “the EU Seal Regime does not violate Article 2.2 of the TBT Agreement [Agreement on Technical Barriers to Trade] because it fulfils the objective of addressing EU public moral concerns on seal welfare to a certain extent, and no alternative measure was demonstrated to make an equivalent or greater contribution to the fulfilment of the objective.”

Marmorstein asserted that “the WTO has thus acknowledged that evidence of the brutality and abject cruelty of sealing, both in Namibia and in Canada, has left a powerful impression on the people of the European Union and led to the support of legislation banning trade in products that are derived from the seal kills.”

One of the last remaining markets for seal products is South Africa. A positive move towards a trade ban by South Africa could influence the Namibian Government to end its Cape fur seal slaughter which takes place between July and November each year and involves the rounding up and killing of 80,000 nursing Cape fur seal pups and 6,000 bulls in their breeding colonies

Cape fur seal populations – found only in South Africa and Namibia – are already threatened by fluctuations in prey availability related to climate phenomena (such as Benguela Niño), commercial fishing pressure on their prey base, mortality from entanglement in fishing nets, and illegal killing by fishermen. During the last 30 years, the population has suffered three mass die-off events in which up to 90% of seal pups died of starvation.

Marmorstein concluded, “South Africa has an opportunity to improve and enhance its reputation as a conservationist nation by maintaining and increasing protections for one of its most iconic animal species.”

The Seals of Nam: http://www.thesealsofnam.org/press-release-scientists-and-conservationists-unite-to-ask-south-africa-to-be-first-african-nation-to-ban-seal-product-trade/