Concerns about increasing incidents of harassment of cape fur seals
16 November 2023
The Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE) is concerned about increasing incidents of harassment by the public of cape fur seals along the coast. These incidents have included, allowing dogs to approach and/ or attack resting seals; throwing stones at seals; enticing seals to chase people for social media footage, including prodding them with sticks; otherwise, teasing seals for photo opportunities; hitting seals with paddles while canoeing; feeding seals for financial gain to allow for photo opportunities with the seal; and an alleged drowning of two seals by members of the public.
The department wishes to remind the public that the Threatened or Protected Marine Species Regulations, 2017, lists seals as a protected species. Therefore, this type of physical interaction with, and feeding of, seals is not only dangerous to the humans and seals involved, but is prohibited, and therefore a criminal offence. In this regard, the department wishes to highlight a recent criminal matter wherein the department worked closely with the SPCA which resulted in the Khayelitsha Magistrates Court, convicting, and sentencing four individuals who were apprehended for stoning a seal, which caused the seal to be fatally injured.
Cape fur seals are wild animals and have been known to become unpredictably aggressive towards humans, particularly when harassed, resulting in serious injuries. The department emphasises that the activities currently taking place constitutes harassment and are therefore a criminal offence in terms of the aforementioned Regulations and are dangerous both to the public and to the seals.
There are measures in place to rehabilitate or provide medical care to any seal should the need arise, and the public should therefore report any concerns they have to the Department, the SPCA or the City of Cape Town.
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