Rescuing seals stuck in fishing nets and plastic waste in Namibia

Injured seal, photo: Ocean Conservation Namibia
Injured seal, photo: Ocean Conservation Namibia

“What we’re doing is, we are treating the symptoms to the problem. We need to get to the root of it,” Naude Dreyer says about why he and his wife started Ocean Conservation Namibia. For the past years, Naude has rescued more than 800 seals from fishing nets, plastic and all other kinds of toxic ocean waste.

Ocean Conservation Namibia wants to create awareness about the ocean pollution problem in Namibia. They want to curb the problems that animals face because of irresponsible human activities. Naude believes that this can be done efficiently by educating people and creating awareness about the situation. 

At the moment, there are no exact numbers of how many seals are injured because of plastic waste. Still, every day Naude and his team find many seals entangled in nets or plastic: “For the last year and a half now, I’ve been working with a couple of scientists and log everything including the count, the entanglement and the condition of the seals and help them create a conclusive database.” 

Naude lives near Pelican Point: a place that is home to more than 60,000 Cape Fur Seals. They usually drive around with a pair of binoculars to look for seals with entanglements on them.

“They do bite. I have been bitten a few times but never too badly to need stitches or anything,” he laughs when asked if his job is dangerous. He adds: “I am backed up on tetanus shots, I’ve been with all kinds of animals. We are very careful and use specialized gloves and equipment.”

He also says that seals, in general, aren’t aggressive animals and only bite when prompted by their instinct.

He recalls a rescue mission where a seal was entangled in a fishing line and stopped to say ‘thank you’ after Naude and his team rescued him and ended his misery. But that was an exception, usually the seals run away quickly. And that’s a good thing: “We don’t want them to become habitual to humans. We want them to stay as wild as possible.”

Seals are playful
On talking about the worst case of entanglement he has seen, he opens up about the playful nature of seals. They are like puppies and play with everything weird that comes their way. Be it construction clothing pieces, paint bucket rims or even toilet seats, seals will try to play with these things and often end up stuck in them.

These stuck pieces will eventually cut through their skin and muscles when they grow older. Naude elaborates that he aims to establish a rehabilitation center to aid very bad cases. Follow-up care is essential, he says, but for now, he has consulted marine biologists from around the world and found that saltwater is one of the best antibacterial antiseptics that cures these animals. 

Youtube famous in a few weeks
Naude’s Youtube channel has received a massive spike of sudden subscribers showcasing the appreciation that people have for his work. He comments that there is still human left in humans as he is receiving a lot of requests from people who wish to volunteer for work and will soon launch a volunteer program for his organization. 

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