By Oswald Theart
MR PAT DICKENS who resides in the Western Province town of George, South Africa, the leader of the activist group, “The Seals of Nam”, is currently organizing a massive international campaign against the Namibian Government for harvesting of the Cape Fur Seal in Namibian territory. I have been following his Facebook page and recent press releases.
This group of activists’ campaign is based on an uncompromising approach against the culling of seals. In obtaining their goals, they make use of disinformation, extortion, as well as blackmail. They go as far as to involve branded groups, politicians, celebrities, and international tour operators in the tourism industry. Their main goal is to organize a total boycott against the Namibian economy, until such a time that the Namibian Government declares a moratorium on the culling of seals.
It is a well-known fact that due to the absence of its main natural predator (Great White Shark), the Namibian seal population has become totally over-populated. This has for a long time now contributed to a severe negative impact on the local fish resources. So many people’s livelihoods depend on the availability of this fish source. If this uncontrollable seal population explosion should be left un-attended, the impact of this will be devastating not only on our fishing industry, but also on a large portion of our tourism industry, which also depends on the availability of fish, such as small boat and rock and beach anglers.
The activists claim, according to their Facebook page, that there are 650 000 Cape Fur Seals spread in the colonies along the Namibian coast and that these seals are suffering, because of the total allowable catch of 600 000 tonnes, which was granted to the fishing industry by the Namibian government. According to well-documented research, adult seals consume 35 kilogrammes of fish per day. The daily consumption of fish by these seals is 22,750 tonnes of fish. Meaning that for each year, these seals consume a total of 8.3 million tonnes of fish.
This total allowable catch, therefore, seems like a drop in the ocean compared to what the seals consume. If one takes into consideration that 350g of protein is sufficient to feed one person for one day, then 65 million people could be fed on what the seals consume per day. With the millions of our people in Africa who are suffering, a portion of the seals’ daily consumption will help a lot. Despite Mr Pat Dickens’ claim that there are 650 000 seals, the real figures are much higher and as a result the impact caused by the seals are much higher.
Mr Dickens also frequently refers to Appendix II of the UN Convention of Endangered Species. He also mentions on his FB page that the seal harvesting is against Namibian law. The matter of fact is that the Cape Fur Seal in Namibia has never been declared as an endangered species by the UN Convention of Endangered Species. The Namibian Fisheries Marine Resources Act also provides for the legal harvesting of seals. The Cape Fur seal has become a plague, which is currently not properly controlled. If one takes into consideration what the meaning of conservation implies, “The wise management of the environment and its resources by Mankind,” then it is Mankind’s responsibility to weigh up all options and to find a meaningful balance.
Mr Dickens also propagates that the Namibian Government is chasing away seals on the many islands close to our coast with clubs to prevent them from breeding there. What he is forgetting is that some of these islands from which the guano has been harvested, served as breeding grounds for a variety of bird species. Seals go there where they can find food. The seals now invade these islands and feed on these nesting birds, including penguins. The seals are not only having a devastating effect on the fish resources, but also on the wider bird life and, as such, the Namibian Government is doing a good job in protecting these birds or else the seals will eat them into extinction.
These animals can also spread dangerous diseases and this can have an adverse effect on the human population. The cost of mitigating against the possible transmission of these diseases from the seals to thousands of humans can also not be justified, especially at the expense of millions of people who are suffering of hunger. The activists will be able to get much more support if they approach the logic in this matter. Unfortunately, their approach is like that of Zealots with whom no reasonable man can reason. We all love the seals and we Namibians don’t want them to become extinct. However, when it becomes a plague something must be done to balance nature. If left like in the current situation just imagine the infestation of our beaches.
Should these activists consider assisting valuable causes such as helping in the fight against the pollution of our sea or giving assistance to seals that become entangled in nets and ropes, then their existence could be justified. Unfortunately they are now merely rebels without a cause.