WINDHOEK - The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources received numerous reports from the public regarding dead Cape seals washed ashore as well as living seals that appear to be lost or hungry along the coast.
The Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources therefore wishes to inform the public that these scenarios are natural and occur more frequent during the August to February period.
The Cape fur seal (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) is endemic to the Southern African region (southern Angola to the west coast of South Africa). About 60 percent of the Southern African population occurs in Namibia along the coastline on twenty-six colonies, some of which are situated on islands and others on land. To date, Namibia has about 1.2 million Cape fur seals, which is the highest recorded population estimate.
The period between November and December is a breeding season for seals and during this period many pups from the previous breeding season are weaned and expected to fend for themselves. Some pups find it difficult to survive on their own in the new environment, hence they starve and die, while others get lost and end up in strange places, such as towns, instead of going back to their colonies, stated the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources.
“At the breeding colonies, new-born pups usually die from being abandoned by their mothers or from injuries incurred during bull fights. Furthermore, pups that are born on islands are at a high risk of drowning during high tides. Mortalities may also result from viral or bacterial infections,” the ministry said.
“Thus, it is normal to encounter dead and lost seal pups along the coastline during this time of the year. Besides natural causes of death, anthropogenic induced mortality, especially littering from fishing gear, especially nylon material, results in snares that entangle body parts (e.g. neck). As the entangled animal grows, the snare cuts through the flesh suffocating the animal leading to death (when neck entangled). Flipper entanglement disables the seal causing it to drown,” Charlie Matengu the spokesman at the Ministry of Fisheries and Marine Resources stated on Wednesday.
The ministry acknowledges and shares the concerns of the public. However, this is a natural phenomenon and very little can be done as it is extremely difficult to rear seal pups outside of their natural environment. Therefore, the ministry advises the public (as per the Marine Resources Act of 2000, section 32 (1)) not to touch or remove seals from their natural habitat.
“The ministry’s officials will continue to closely monitor the population and any abnormal mortalities observed shall be communicated to the public,” Matengu assured in the statement.