PLEASE REACT TO THIS - Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA
----- Original Message -----
Sent: Saturday, March 25, 2006 2:09 PM
Subject: Cape Fur Seals - Bird Island/Lambert's Bay
Dear John - "The Puppet Conservationist",
As one of the main environmental writers for the Argus Newspaper with many awards behind your name, you have a duty to present a fair and objective viewpoint to your readers. You will recall my telephonic conversation with you last week, requesting your assistance to highlight the issue of extinction of seals from Robben, the largest island in southern Africa, or for any major island for that matter, and your refusal to address this. You then, less than a week later, go and write the below article - well, I have just about had it with you. What kind of "conservationist" bends the truth and reality, and mis-informs his readers, so that his own distorted viewpoint or those of his masters, can appear to have more credibility.
Luckily today for the seals, there is the wonders of the internet, where I as the founder of Seal Alert-SA, can reach and inform, and contradict your propaganda, to just as many readers to keep them, fully "informed". Your article in the newspaper, therefore serves only one reality, to further discredit you in the most obvious of ways.
The facts surrounding Bird Island in Lambert's Bay is as follows, I suggest you inform your readers accordingly, as I intend to do with mine. It is well accepted amongst all scientists and conservationists that seals were the dominant species on the offshore islands in southern Africa - and bred, only on offshore islands. Sealing alone lead to the complete extermination of at least 23 island seal colonies, leading to the near extinction of this species. In 1893 the government in an attempt to address this near extinction, introduced its protection under the Cape Fish Act.
With the void of this indigenous and natural species of seal upon these islands, it stands to reason, an unnatural colonisation or breeding of another species will take place, aided once again, in your foolish desire to harvest increased seabird droppings. The gannet seabird colony referred to in your article at Bird Island in Lambert's Bay is a classic example of this. In fact, in 1912, the gannets displaced the endangered African Penguin, which is at present at risk of going extinct on this island as well(Why are you or any one of your bird loving cronies not considering electric fences or sharp shooting offending gannets). Where were you, in the 1940s and 1960s where over 300 tons of Guano was harvested annually, removing and destroying all forms of natural breeding sites, causing the collapse of many seabird species on this island. The Pelicans, a bird species if you didn't know, is currently gobbling up all the Swift Tern chicks on at least three breeding colonies, do you propose "shoo-ing" or shooting them.
Instead since 1940s, your policies have been the complete banning of every seal from every major island, greater than 2 ha off the coast of southern Africa, enforced with shooting and "shoo-ing" of every "offending seal". It is claimed that gannets only breed at 6 breeding sites along the southern African coastline. These are Mercury Island, from which seals were displaced in 1990. Ichaboe Island, from which seals were displaced. Possession Island, in which over half a million seals were displaced. Malagas island, in which seals were displaced and from which Marine and Coastal Management, since 1998 have been shooting seals with un-qualified shooters, and then there is the Bird Island in Algoa Bay. In fact these 6 gannet colonies, represent a total of 127 ha of protected offshore island land, all of which was seal island land. In comparison, 18 seal colonies over the total southern African offshore region, are found breeding on just 13 ha. Does this appear, natural, normal and acceptable to you? Is it not true to state, that it is in fact, gannets, who have unnaturally displaced seals from over 127 ha of protected wildlife islands. It is not also true to state, in part endangering the future breeding success of seals, where in 1971, on all 18 seal colonies, 80 586 pups were born, and after 26 years in 1997, only 72 240 pups were now recorded.
It is therefore clear, that there is in fact, no growth of any seal population in this region, any new influx of any seals, if there is, and this is not just some figment of your imagination, can therefore only be attributable to other unnatural medalling or displacement from seals declining in other regions, which is apparently widespread.
Your highlighted caption, "It's the sub-adult males with time on their hands" omits once again some clear facts. Perhaps you should interview some of the major Fish processing factories and Canneries in the area, particularly the striking pelagic factory fishermen, who will tell you this once most productive fishery in the world is no more, not a single box of pilchards could be bought anywhere in South Africa in December, with pelagic fish no longer being caught off the west coast commercially, but instead landed on the east coast and trucked over 600 km from Mossel Bay. It is further illogical to assume that two species, seals and seabirds, preying on the same declining fish species, causes one specie, seabirds to decline, but allows the other, seals to increase and proliferate to such an extent, where you report, Seals - now suddenly have time on their hands. Unlike seals, gannets can fly, and this is in all likelihood exactly what they have done, therefore this man-made gannet island, is not deserted due to the presence of seals, but unconstitutionally, unsustainable policies of over-fishing the more logical reason. Perhaps you should consider that a seal cannot digest seabird feathers, and if it is preying on seabirds, endangered or not, it is because man, is forcing this seal out of necessity to avoid starvation, decline and extinction, to prey on unnatural sources of food.
Perhaps you would also be wise to note, Human greed led to overfishing. Apart from ever increasing human consumption, this "building block" of the marine food chain was turned into dried and processed "fishmeal" to be used in pet foods and for livestock farming, despite seafood never having formed part of these land based animals' natural diet. Feeding animals unnaturally, that are neither indigenous, endangered or protected, and who in essence have no place in the natural world.
Finally, there is one other major point, you ignore. Under existing legislation, the Seals and Seabirds are administered under the constitution as a "resource", and as such they are protected under national legislation, including the islands upon which they breed. Kas Hamman, head of bio-diversity management at CapeNature who equally manages this island, and who is "drafting recommendations on how to deal with seals on Bird Island" , actually has no legal jurisdiction over the management of this island, being a department of local government, as defined in the President's Minute 29 of 5 July 1994. In addition, during the drafting in 2002 of the new Seals and Seabirds Protection Draft policy, it was admitted by all, and I quote, "In the case of seals, it is recommended that these be managed by DEAT alone, because only DEAT scientists and technical staff have the necessary (sealing, shooting and capturing) experience working with seals" or is this just a case of the blind leading the blind.
If the motivation by CapeNature is based on economics, now that their past failed fishing exploitive policies has left an entire fishing community improvised, and are once again returning to wildlife they helped destroy and eradicate, to exploit to its maximum. It is not true to equally state that Seabird Conservation is actually just a figment of someone's imagination, now that the lucrative trade for guano has collapsed, replaced instead by artificial fertilizers. It is once again suggested, that the claimed "bus-loads" of tourists drawn in the past to the area, would be even more so, if they could experience a "natural" island life, consisting of all natural species, instead of just one gannet seabird. The smallest seal colony in southern Africa, off Hout Bay, not only draws bus-loads of tourists, exceeding over 400 000 visitors, but earns a healthy R20 million in desperately needed foreign exchange as well.
Where you might be right, John, in stating "it is the only one of it's kind that allowed close-up watching of the tens of thousands of gannets", it would equally be the "only one of it's kind" where seals and their adorable seal pups, could be watched close-up, living on the only natural island in southern Africa.
The suggestion or perhaps it is in fact, now a recommendation to apply "birth control measures to the female seals", was first touted by another CapeNature "Seal Expert" Dr Tony Williams, who during a IFAW hosted Seal Rescue and Rehabilitation Workshop in 2003, touted the widespread use of "birth control" as a far better alternative to wasting money on Seal Rescue, that government had already decided, that it will not "fund the rescue and rehabilitation of protected seals" anyway. Or, perhaps this was just really an excuse to stem the "mass-tide" of starvation seals washing ashore all along our coast.
It is clear from your article, that you have the comprehension of a "pee" when it comes to marine wildlife conservation, it is suggested you adopt in future a more holistic natural viewpoint. To avoid future replies such as this one, for narrow mindedness is something that lead to apartheid, and we all know how that system collapsed after 40 years. So John, continue as you do, for as a spectator to this spectacle, I relish in pleasure, the day, when you as the "white minority" are "shoo-ed" from your propagating office by the majority and driven out of this country at gun-point, or better still, shot in the "offending" street, likes the seals you purport to gleam their demise.
This propaganda is so widespread it was printed in every major newspaper, see the Citizen below.
The Citizen Friday 24th March, 2006
SEALS VERSUS GANNETS COULD CAUSE CONTROVERSY
by Hugo Hagen.
Another controversy similar to that around the culling of elephants could loom unless a specialist report on curbing seal attacks on the Cape's gannet population is carefully considered by Environmental Affairs and Tourism Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk.Some measures being suggested include the use of sharpshooters and an electrified fence to stop the slaughter of gannets by murderous seals on bird Island. These are included in a report by a task team investigating the attacks on the gannets.
While only a few "problem seals" are responsible, the gannet breeding colony abandoned the island completely in December. Bird Island is about 2.2 ha in size and is one of only six gannet breeding colonies in the world. It is the only one where visitors can see the birds at close range.
Two sharpshooters will double up as technicians, collect scientific data and train local seabird monitors. An electrified fence will separate the seals and the area where the birds breed.
The drastic recommendations follow a 1990 ban on harvesting seals for commercial purposes.Since then the seal population has grown by 4% a year. It is generally acknowledged that they pose a threat to birds such as gannets.
SEAL DISTURBANCE - BIRD ISLAND - LAMBERTS BAY - COMPLAINT and SOLUTIONS
Below is my letter to the relevant officials listed below. Lets give them a week to reply, before we voice our rights. Francois.
----- Original Message -----
To: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; LawrenceM@pprotect.pwv.gov.za ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cc: email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
Sent: Sunday, March 26, 2006 7:56 PM
Subject: Seal Disturbance - Bird Island - Lamberts Bay - Complaint & Solutions
ATTENTION : Officials involved in the Management of Cape Fur Seals and Islands
Using tax-payers money to employ sharp-shooters, erect electrified fences on islands, build walls, enforce unnatural policies of wildlife segregation and engage in policies of "shooing" protected wildlife in front of thousands of tourists, is clearly not the way to conduct 21st century conservation, year after year - Please therefore listen to the voice of reason.
The Draft Proposals forward to the Minister by CapeNature and MCM, offer no long term solution and have inherent cruelty applications within.
Seal Disturbance - Bird Island - Lambert's Bay
COMPLAINT & SOLUTIONS
Further to my email letter addressed to John Yeld of the Argus Newspaper on the 25th of March. I wish to place the following before you.
As the founder of Seal Alert-SA I have extensive expertise in working with Cape Fur Seals, equally I am representative of a coalition of over 40 Animal Rights organizations around the world, who have extensive connections to the tourist industry in Germany, Holland, Italy, France, Brazil, UK, Canada, USA, Turkey and Australia, to name just a few. I therefore ask that you reply to this email timelessly in order to avoid the unnecessary burden of a stream of emails flooding into your in-box and mine, in support of this letter, from the four corners of the globe. Should this professional relationship be established, I will ensure in my part, to keep all those informed of future developments.
Under the constitution government has a legal responsibility to conserve and protect, both Seals and Seabirds. Historically this island was inhabited by the Cape Fur Seals, one of only 6 endemic mammal species in this region. In 1998, government spent R4 million to develop this island as an "exclusive Gannet/Seabird viewing facility", ignoring all policies of bio-diversity and natural wildlife selection. Between this northern most island on our west coast and Robben Island in the south. There is a total of 9 islands, within a range of 250 km from Bird Island, with a total offshore protected land area of 934 ha. This is in fact, substantial as it accounts for over 93% of the offshore island land protected for seabirds and seals, under the Seabird and Seal Protection Act of 1973. All this protected island land is currently earmarked, exclusively for seabird conservation, and seal exclusion. With the Cape Fur Seals, currently only found breeding on 3 rocks, with a total land surface area of 2.5 ha, in this same region, or less than 0.3%.
The issue at stake is the "apparent" desertion of this 2.2 ha island of approximately 22 000 breeding gannets, after having first colonised this island (due to the unnatural extermination of seals) from 1912 onwards, displacing penguins and other seabirds, leading to the extinction of penguins on this island in the process. After 93 years, suddenly it is claimed and after a five-year study (1998-2002), that seals have not displaced the gannet population, but "frightened" them away.
To put this into perspective, the largest offshore seal colony in southern Africa, is Seal Rock in False Bay, where in 2 ha, 76 000 seals are expected to successfully mate and bred. Bird Island, at 2.2 ha with just 22 000 much smaller seabirds, is a substantial island for such a species. 200 claimed kills by seals, is in reality less than 1%, an insignificant mortality when one considers natural mortality to be between 25-30% for most species.
Whether or not, seals are responsible for the gannets leaving Bird Island. The gannets alternatively have, over 934 ha of offshore island land within a 250km range, with which to re-locate to, and are therefore in no danger. Strangely although seals and seabirds interact over 40 breeding sites, some very remote, never before has this activity been noted in which seals predate on seabirds on land and cause complete seabird colony desertion.
In comparison, extermination, banning or displacement of seals by gannets, has lead them to breeding on 6 previously seal offshore islands, totalling 127 ha. If one considers this small 250 km region of coastline, historically, it is in fact, the seals who appear to be endangered. For they have remained either exterminated, banned or extinct, on all islands larger than 2 ha. As official seal population survey figures show, Robben, Dassen, Marcus, Malgas, Meeuwen, Schaapen, Vondeling and Bird Islands, equalling 934 ha, are all currently extinct to breeding seals. Only the rocks of Jacob's, Paternoster and Elephant, equalling just 2.5 ha, still support breeding seals. Based on current island colony densities and with all these islands extinct, seal breeding numbers have declined substantially, and in fact have never recovered. From seal populations historically numbering in the millions, only 7298 pups were recorded being born on these 3 rocks in this region, in 1971, and in 1997, this number had declined further to 5015.
I ask that this complaint be taken seriously and request the investigation of the Public Protector, who has substantial background experience in this matter due to a previous complaint, laid in 2000.
It is accepted by all scientists and conservationists, that seals are endemic and the dominant species on these islands. It is unnaturally possible for various species of seabirds to dominant 934 ha of island land, and seals just 2.5 ha. Since official seal population surveys began in 1971, none of these 9 large islands have been re-populated by seals. There can only be one logical explanation for this, widespread use of banning, disturbance, shooing and shooting of seals around islands. MCM scientists have admitted seals first breed on Bird Island in 1985, (which is in itself an illogical natural conclusion), regardless, it is clear from all subsequent seal population surveys, that this natural re-population of seals on Bird Island, was never going to be allowed, for their survey records continued show thereafter that this island was officially un-populated by seals.
The Question therefore - Is the motivation behind the Bird Island Draft Proposal the banning of Seals from any island greater than 2 ha?
To continue to purpose policies of single species segregation, will ultimately ensure that any one of the over 35 seabird species, will ensure the continued banning and displacement of a single species of seal from their natural and endemic breeding locations.
In addition, the later President's Minute 29 of 5 July 1994, assigns administration of this island to the Minister of DEAT. Kas Hamman, head of bio-diversity management at CapeNature, a department of local government who is managing this island and its wildlife, and who during the drafting of the new draft policy for Seals and Seabirds, acknowledge no expertise in Seal Management, should be investigated for his expertise in Marine Wildlife Bio-diversity, as his actions are impacting on the whole natural bio-diversity of this unique region.
According to Anton Wolfaardt of CapeNature in an article in the Cape Times in January, he was quoted as stating their are "3 500 seals around the island", the same department in another article, just two months later, now claims, there is "7 000-odd seals living on the island", this would give a pup population of 1750. Clearly their observation cannot be based on science.
Shooing & Disturbance - There is no sound conservation principle in this management. According to the proposed drafting, "shooing" is the main recommendation to commence in October for 3 weeks. This is somewhat strange, as this is the main start of the breeding season for seals, where bulls haul-out and command harems and cows come ashore to pup, and not as suggested in the draft, the gannets. In fact, according to MCM's own website breeding of gannets occurs from August to March. Why therefore "shoo" in October, well into the gannet breeding season.
In addition, it is claimed, that it is only a few sub-adults, so why undertake "shooing" in October, as these seals would in all likelihood been around the colony year long.
With all islands either banned or extinct to seals, and clearly 3 rocks totalling 2.5ha, inappropriately already occupied by breeding seals at maximum carrying capacity, what alternative arrangements have been made to allow seals to seek other islands to re-population, mate, breed and give birth. During "shooing" and disturbance, a number of cows will abort or alternatively abandon their "protected" seal pups, what contingency plan is in place to a) rescue and rehabilitate these pups and b) relocate or re-introduce them to other islands. Or, is the starvation and cruelty envisaged in this plan, something that is just ignored, for potentially hundreds of pups. What plan is in place, to prevent harem dis-order or changes in seal breeding behaviour, that have existed amongst these seals on bird island since 1985. Should 7000 seals be colonised on this island, this would make this Seal, Bird Island population the 9th largest offshore seal colony in southern Africa.
Electric Fences - There is no sound conservation principle in this management, neither. Should fences be erected, it would naturally prevent fledglings from learning to fly, should it encircle the island. If used only in a straight line, as a divider, seals being highly intelligent will quickly learn to circumnavigate this fence. From an inherent on-going cruelty aspect, electrifying the fence, will cause thousands of seals to electrocute themselves, as characteristic to their behaviour, they enjoy lying up against structures, seals, which for no intense purposes are posing any threat to anyone, will be routinely electrocuted or shocked unnecessary.
Shooting - As it is believed shooting is planned at night and on targeting seals seen attacking seabirds in the water. There is no possibility of obtaining a clean shot from a moving boat with a continuously moving seal in the water, with barely its head visible for short periods. It is in fact, completely impossible to distinguish one seal from another or suggested "culprit", unless caught instantly in the act, which would in itself be an impossible scenario, leading to innocent "victims" being shot, with no means of control or verification in this management, it could just lead to an excuse where seals are culled innocently. Equally shooting of seals at night in a crowded seabird and or seal colony, clearly will include aspects of cruelty and abuse, as no clean shot is possible under these conditions.
Birth Control or Contraception - As previously stated, the current seal population in this region, is but a fraction of its former pristine population size, and over the last three decades has continued to decline by over 30%, with all islands remaining extinct, equally. With just 5 015 seal pups being born in this region, it is both irresponsible and in fact, dangerous to attempt any form of birth control. The futility of this exercise,would involve continuous attempts at contraception, as young seals mature into breeding cows, and new cows migrate into this area, year in and year out. In addition, the dangers or failure of this system, will only be noticeable in years to come, as it is impossible to identify which seals are pup bearing age seals and which are not, equally their capture will cause immense disturbance to the seal colony, causing abandonment of existing pup being raised.
If the issue at stake is the desertion of this colony by gannets and its desire to ensure this island does not become an extinct "commercial viewing" gannet breeding colony, for no reasons of a conservation concern, as there are ample other protected breeding islands far greater in size than this one. If on the otherhand this draft proposal is then purely commercial, two arguments could be put forward;
1. A more natural multi-species integration on the island, should therefore have greater tourist income appeal. Therefore no "shooing", disturbance or shooting should take place, and instead allow nature to take its natural course.
2. If purely, commercial, then equally the re-introduction of seals, extinct to Robben (seal) Island, should therefore become a top priority.
Should you however decide to continue to alter the natural order of these endemic wildlife, unnaturally, in order to protect your initial invest of R4 million, in exclusive gannet viewing facility, and continue to pursue policies of single species segregation, and in turn adopt one or all of the recommendations in this draft, please be advised that you will responsible for the yearly, rescue and costly rehabilitation of abandoned seal pups and their re-location.
If CapeNature's Bird Island seal population numbers are to be believed, an estimated 875 to 1750 seal pups annually, could become "victims" in this disturbance "shooing", that when aborted or abandoned, would lead to unacceptable cruel cases of starvation, malnutrition and death.
Be advised therefore, that each pup's rescue and rehabilitation is an extremely costly affair exceeding R12 000, and lasting over 10 to 12 months. Which will require additional funding by your department of between R10 - R20 million, per year, and a change in current policy, which will allow the re-introduction of these rehabilitated seals to an appropriate offshore islands, as all current offshore rock breeding seal colonies are currently at maximum carrying capacity.
Seal Alert-SA, the only proven and experienced expert in this field, would naturally make all its existing facilities, equipments and boats, available, however the funding cost would have to be born by government.
Economically with less than 50 000 visitors to this Bird Island, each paying only a R10, entrance fee, I cannot see how in the long run, this would be economical to fund such massive rescue costs from less than R500 000 received from Bird Island viewing.
It is therefore suggested, that a serious hard re-look is done, on current policies involving both seabirds and seals.
Please note I will be taking various local and international film crews to this island, on a regular basis, to further record the cruelty and or failure with regard to seals, that any of these recommendations in the draft, may induce.
For the Seals - Francois Hugo Seal Alert-SA