We are very proud to welcome SPAR as the new supporter of the Two Oceans Aquarium Seal Rescue Programme, which includes the Seal Platform outside Shoreline Café.

You can check out the Seal Platform outside Shoreline Café

The Seal Platform enables us to “gate” injured seals so that we can work quickly and cut nooses or straps that the seals have become ensnared in.

“We are thrilled to finally, officially, celebrate with our new Seal Rescue Programme sponsors SPAR," said Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Campaigner and Rethink the Bag founder Hayley McLellan at the launch this morning. “When you work in this enviroment you become aware of the harsh consequences of bad human behaviour, in this case the careless and inappropriate discarding of potential entanglement items, for wildlife, which all result from the convenience of over-packaging.

“One of our philosophies at this aquarium is that each individual animal is important, hence our concern for every seal in this harbour. We acknowledge and thank SPAR for believing in our vision for wild animal care."

SPAR Western Cape IT Executive John Warren (left) and Managing Director Mario Santana 

SPAR Western Cape Managing Director Mario Santana explained the reasons behind SPAR’s decision to sponsor the Aquarium’s seal rescue programme: “Hayley showed us the brutal effects of what plastic does, and we realised that we have to look at what we can do to help.”

In addition to sponsoring the Seal Rescue Programme and Platform, a number of SPAR stores in the Western Cape have embraced the Aquarium’s Rethink the Bag campaign with their own initiative: “It’s our plastic. It’s our problem”. Franchise stores have voluntarily joined this initiative and aim to reduce plastic bag sales by educating consumers and encouraging the purchase and committed use of long-life, reusable bags instead.

Aquarium Specialist Technician Vincent Calder often arrives early in the morning before work starts to patrol the harbours in search of ensnared seals, many of which he knows individually. It can take months for Vincent to get to an injured seal 

"The campaigns are really good and our retailers are excited about it. This might take a bit of time to gain traction in the consumers’ minds, but with commitment we will get there," Mario said. 

Two Oceans Aquarium Environmental Campaigner Hayley McLellan (left) and SPAR Western Cape HR Executive Claudia Michel

“We as retailers and consumers have a massive effect on what happens to our marine life. We believe that we have to take responsibility. We didn’t realise how bad things were until we saw some of the gruesome pictures of what these marine animals have to go through, and how they suffer because of our actions,” said Mario. “Thanks to you we’ve come up with a three-pronged progamme to help solve some of the the problems. The first is consumer education about plastic bags and that there are better ways of shopping.

From left: Two Oceans Aquarium CEO Michael Farquhar, Kim Stephens of Kim Stephens Communications and Hayley McLellan

"Recycling certainly is one of those things, but reusable bags are even better. So the second part of our strategy was producing good quality, well priced reusable bags and encouraging consumers to look at those. 

Vincent shows attendees the specially designed tools he and his team use to help free Cape fur seals from deadly plastic box bands, ropes and fishing line

“The third is trying to get more involved in terms of what you guys are doing like this seal rescue work, and trying to carry that theme right through and making sure that we are doing good as a retailer." 

From left: SPAR Western Cape Distribution Director Solly Engelbrecht, Marketing Director Colin Patterson, Financial Manager Scott Forrest, Anne Taylor of Anne Taylor Talk and SPAR Western Cape's Peter Williams

Mario continues: “So well done and thank you Hayley, you do a fantastic job of keeping us honest and helping us understand our position in the environment and how important it is that we look at long-term sustainability. We’re hugely proud to have our name here with you and to support you."

Many seals in the harbour have straps or nooses cutting into their necks. If left unattended, the nooses get tighter and cut deeper into the flesh. Seals swim into fishing line, bait box bands, rope and raffia cord, which find their way into the water as a result of human negligence

"It has been heartening to work with this retailer, which has demonstrated its willingness to acknowledge the real issues facing our environment and, most importantly, commit to being a part of the many solutions," Hayley said. 

Michael, Two Oceans Aquarium Aquarist Michelle Kirshenbaum and Mario chat about the intricacies and dangers of seal rescue

Visitors can see Cape fur seals at various spots in and around the V&A Waterfront, either basking in the sun or playing in the water.

Many of the seals in the harbour have straps or nooses cutting into their necks. If left unattended, the nooses get tighter and cut deeper into the flesh, causing nasty wounds that could lead to the death of the animal. These injuries are caused by the seals swimming into items such as fishing line, bait box bands, rope and raffia cord, which find their way into the water as a result of human negligence.

Help for the seals

In 2007, Two Oceans Aquarium Assistant Technical Manager Vincent Calder and Assistant Curator Claire Taylor began assisting the Department of Environmental Affairs and Tourism's Oceans and Coasts unit with the removal of looped debris and box bands from Cape fur seals in the V&A Waterfront.

We regularly patrol the harbour and are often called out to assist when an entangled seal is spotted.

It is extremely difficult to get close to these wild animals. While we have developed several methods, including snorkelling beneath the piers where the affected seals are basking in the sun and then snipping the nooses, sometimes a seal is so badly injured that it is necessary to restrain it in order to cut the noose.

That’s why we created the Seal Platform, which has a sliding-gate mechanism that allows us to get close to the seal and to free it from its plastic noose before letting it go again.

Litter threatens marine life

Seals, whales, dolphins, birds and turtles often become entangled in litter and drown. They also mistake plastic items for food and either choke on it or swallow it and starve to death, as their bodies cannot digest litter.

 Large colonies of approximately two million Cape fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus pusillus) live off the coasts of South Africa and Namibia. These beautiful mammals cannot be seen anywhere else in the world. Photo by Steven Benjamin/Animal Ocean

Litter gets into the sea:

These plastic items have been removed from harbour seals by our team. Photo courtesy Ray D Chaplin
  • via wind: Capetonians refer to the southeaster wind as the Cape Doctor because it “blows away” pollution and “cleans the air”. Of course, the southeaster just blows the litter elsewhere … into the ocean and into the habitats of marine animals.
  • via ships and boats: litter is dumped or blown overboard by the wind.
  • via other human negligence: eg, when fishermen throw away used fishing line, bait packaging etc.
  • via storm-water drains: even though you live far away from the coast, your litter can still find its way into the sea! There is no “away”.

Here’s how you can help stop our oceans from turning into dumpsites:

You can learn more about our work with seals by checking out our “Cut a Loop” environmental campaign.

  • Repeat: Tell others that packaging kills and to cut any items that form nooses before throwing them away.
  • Refuse: Say “no” to packaging! Say no to straws and to balloons!
  • Reduce: The amount of waste you produce.
  • Re-use: Use your imagination, get creative!
  • Recycle: Plastic, tins, glass and paper.
  • Reconnect: Join a beach or river clean-up.
  • Remember: What we do on land, we do to the ocean.

Rethink the Bag

Photo by Vincent Calder

Rethink the Bag is a Two Oceans Aquarium campaign that aims to ban single-use plastic shopping bags in South Africa.

Did you know? South African shoppers use approximately 8 billion plastic shopping bags every year. As macro litter, these bags can end up in the ocean where they threaten the lives of marine creatures, which are at risk of becoming entangled in them. They are also often mistaken for food and those animals that have eaten a plastic bag face a slow, agonising death.

Please say “no” to single-use plastic shopping bags every time you shop and choose reusable shopping bags instead. They last longer than the single-use bags and will save you money and help clean up our beautiful country.

Thank you SPAR for supporting our conservation work with seals – we salute you!

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