Update/Week 1 - SOUTH AFRICAN SEAL CAMPAIGN - A CALL TO BAN GUNS DURING FISHING TRIPS TO SEA.
31st July 2005, it has now been two weeks since I sent a letter to the Minister Van Schalkwyk of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, requesting an urgent meeting to discuss the illegal and criminal shooting of protected Cape Fur Seals.in South African coastal waters, by commercial fisherman licenced by his department.
Besides an acknowledgement of my letter, not a word or reply or even a peep, has come from his department.
It has now been a week since Helen Bamford's article "plea to ban guns during fishing trips to sea" appeared in the Weekend Argus Newspaper. Across the South African media, silence.
No enquires from reporters or any follow up reporting, nothing.
Perhaps the South African media thinks there is no real public interest in the fact that fishermen have been shooting innocent seals for decades or perhaps it is the fact, that our cities and towns are so awash with high crime rates and a gun culture, that shooting of a seal is just another accepted way of doing things and life, until this crime affects you.
For those of you that don't know me, my name is Francois Hugo and since 1999, I have been protecting, conserving and rescuing Cape Fur Seals at the tip of Africa.
At 42, and for the remainder of my life-time, I am only going to call on you to assist these seals with two things.
The current campaign to have guns banned that are currently being taken to sea on fishing trips to kill protected seals illegally, and the second to follow later, is to campaign to have seals returned to their largest offshore and most important island, named after them, which has also been declared a world heritage site in 1999, and from which they are currently extinct and banned from.
Behind the scenes however, rumour has it, things are hotting up.
The press is strangely not very pleased that the worldwide response to this campaign from seal supporters, from Australia, US, Canada, UK, Turkey, Belgium, Holland and China, is blocking up their in-box emails.
One reporter even complained to me, that I should not have given out her email address.
"I have work to do and these incoming emails are just disrupting my work, they are just the same letter from different people", she replied.
The nerve of this reporter, here she has a breaking public response of concern, and she finds it an annoyance, imagine what an annoyance it is to a seal that has been innocently shot whilst simply trying to survive in his own world, injured or killed for life.
Another television program manager has blocked his in-box to anymore incoming Seal Campaign emails, I can only imagine how successful or unsuccessful his career in television news will be with a response like this.
THE EVERYDAY REALITY OF COMMERCIAL FISHING
SEAL TRAPPED ON TRAWL NET - BEATEN AND CLUBBED BEFORE CUTTING THE NET AROUND AND DUMPED OVERBOARD DROWNING IN THE PROCESS
REVENGEFUL ANTICS OF COMMERCIAL FISHERMAN - CATCHING BABY SEALS DURING A TRAWL - CUT THE NET AROUND THEM STILL ENTANGLED AND DUMPED OVERBOARD. ONE LONE SURVIVOR STRUGGLES TO CARRY THE BURDEN OF HIS FOUR OTHER DEAD SIBLINGS
In 2003, Deputy Director Horst Kleinschmidt of Marine and Coastal Management, a department of the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism "Some fishers shoot seals, injurying or killing them.
We are equally opposed to such conduct.
They do this believing that seals consume catches they feel are theirs.
Their behaviour is uninformed and demands unequivocal condemnation.
If anyone shoots at seals, we will prosecute.
We do not condone conduct of this kind and ask people to come forward with evidence of this".
In 1973, the Cape Fur Seals became protected under the Sea Birds and Seals Protection Act no.46 and it became a criminal offence to "pursue or shoot at or wilfully disturb, kill or capture a seal. Yet, in 34-years of protection, not a single fisherman has ever been arrested or convicted for killing thousands of innocent seals, instead they have been rewarded.
Currently before our Cabinet for signature is a New Seal Protection draft document, and in it contains the following, Incidental capture by fisheries (188.8.131.52) - Restrictions will be implemented on the use or carrying of fire-arms, ammunition or explosives abroad fishing vessels, with a view to the control of the illegal shooting of seals at sea. Another Act, is also before Cabinet, the long-term fishing rights of fisherman.
In the Constitution of South Africa, no mention is made of guns.
However under the Bill of Rights it clearly states, Environment, everyone has the right
a) to an environment that is not harmful to their health or well-being;
and b) to have the environment protected, for the benefit of present and future generations, through reasonable legislative and other measures that ii) promote conservation.
This South African fishing "gun-free" campaign is a simple one to succeed.
I know this, because in 2000, after rejecting applications by both myself and Seashepherd International, to undertake Seal Rescue in South Africa, in an effort to prevent Cape Fur Seals being rescued for the first time in 27-years of becoming a protected species.
Marine and Coastal Management simply wrote a regulation, had it signed by parliament and within two weeks, it now became a Criminal Offence to rescue a dying starving seal by feeding it.
There is not much that we can do against this 5 billion rand, 30 000 strong fishing industry, that will stop some of these cruel sadist criminal fisherman from inflicting such terrible pain on seals, like overfishing or like drowning them in their nets, or clubbing them to death once hoisted abroad entrapped in netting, or ripping open their jaws with steel gaffs, or impaling them on large steel fish hooks, or discarding or polluting our seas, with loose netting, fishing line or nylon rope, but we can do something about guns, and we can stop guns being taken to sea during licenced fishing trips.
This is where you come in.
Send this email to everyone you know and take one minute to write to the below list of officials and media, and tell them what you think and want.
Show these ignorant, non-caring and selfish individuals, that we care! and the true meaning of Email Spam.
Close down their in-box emails, until they understand that nothing is more important than stopping this.
If you do this, then after my conversation with the Advocate Gary Pienaar of Public Protectors Office on Saturday morning, he has promised that if I have not had an official response from the Minister by the 8th of August 2005, I can come in and file an official complaint.
Your Wish List :
The Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism :
Mr Martinus Van Schalkwyk (Personal assistant) firstname.lastname@example.org Fax: +27 -21 465-3216 Tel: +27 -21 465-7240
Minister of Safety and Security : email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Public Protectors Office : Advocate Gary Pienaar : email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
MCM Legal Representative : Marius Diemont - email@example.com
Media : Mnet Carte Blanche - firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor of ETV NEWS - Andy.Duffy@etv.co.za
Reporter of the Weekend Argus - Helenb@incape.co.za
Letters Editor of the Weekend Argus - email@example.com
Cape Times - firstname.lastname@example.org
Mail & Guardian - Fiona Mc Cloud - email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org
50/50 wildlife program - email@example.com
Argus - John Yeld - firstname.lastname@example.org
Earle Bingley of the Canadian Voice for Animals, has kindly set-up a web-page, where you can go to see the latest campaign newsletters, you can also view and write a comment to me in the guest book at: http://www.canadianvoiceforanimals.org/SASealAlert_Index.html
For the Seals
Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
083 949 6944