South African Journal of Science
On-line version ISSN 1996-7489
Print version ISSN 0038-2353
DAVID, Jeremy and VAN SITTERT, Lance. A reconstruction of the Cape (South African) fur seal harvest 1653-1899 and a comparison with the 20th-century harvest. S. Afr. j. sci. [online]. 2008, vol.104, n.3-4, pp.107-110. ISSN 1996-7489.
The Cape fur seal was an abundant resource in southern Africa, when first discovered by itinerant sailing vessels in the late 16th century. Seals were slaughtered indiscriminately by the sailors for skins, meat and oil for three centuries from around 1600 to 1899. Government controls over the sealing industry were first introduced as late as 1893, by which time at least 23 seal colonies had become extinct and the seal population had been significantly reduced. This paper reconstructs the historical seal harvest from the time of arrival of the first settlers in 1652 up to 1899. These data are then compared with modern harvest data from 1900 to 2000, illustrating the marked increase in the harvest from about 1950, and the concomitant recovery of the seal population to a level of around 1.5-2 million animals.