NPWS says give seals space to recover and rest

It is seal season in NSW and the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) are reminding people to give them the space they deserve to rest, digest and recover when they haul out of the ocean along our coastline.

New Zealand fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri), protected vulnerable species

NPWS Cetacean expert Geoff Ross said that while it is great news that fur seal populations are increasing in Australian waters, it does mean we are more likely to see sick or injured seals.

"Hauling out is a natural habit of these sea dwelling mammals and the vast majority of seals we see laying on rock shelves or beaches are just resting or digesting a belly full of fish," Mr Ross said.

"However some may be sick or injured and will haul out to rest and recover from whatever their ailment might be.

"In many cases these highly resilient animals can recover on their own without human intervention, even from what appear to be horrific injuries.

"As a result, it is important that these animals are reported to either NPWS or ORRCA so we can monitor them in the first instance and assess their ongoing condition before considering intervening.

"Through years of experience, wildlife experts including NPWS, ORRCA and Taronga Zoo have learnt that this period of observation is better than subjecting the seal to the extreme stress of capture especially if the animal is recovering from illness," Mr Ross said.

NPWS and ORRCA are currently monitoring a number of seals along the NSW coastline.

"The recent storms have no doubt resulted in an increase in the number of seals we are currently monitoring, including one at McCauleys Beach in Bulli," Mr Ross added.

"The juvenile New Zealand fur seal at Bulli has been continuously monitored by ORRCA and NPWS since it was first reported.

"The animal has also been assessed by a local veterinarian who is highly experienced in treating marine mammals, and although the seal appears to be a bit underweight and has a bite mark resulting from a cookie cutter shark, the injury is showing signs of healing.

"Cookie cutter bites are not uncommon for seals and ORRCA and the NPWS agree with veterinarian advice that the best medicine for now is rest and to continue monitoring to ensure its long term wellbeing.

"During this time, it is really important that people give these animals the space and time to fully rest and recover.

"As a wild animal, particularly if it is injured or unwell, it considers humans and dogs as a threat and will cause it distress, especially if people walk between the seal and the water," said Mr Ross.

For their own safety and the animal's welfare, the NSW approach distances stipulate people should not be closer than 40 metres to a seal when the animal is on land, as indicated by the warning signs in place. In the water, do not approach closer than 10 metres and stay at least 80 metres from seal pups at all times. "We always need to give these hardy animals every chance to continue surviving in the wild, with as minimal interference from humans as possible.

"And remember, seals can move very quickly on land and have sharp teeth. Even if it is an off leash dog beach, dogs must be kept on leads near seals and people must adhere to the approach distances," Mr Ross said.

If you are concerned about a seal or any marine mammal please call NPWS or the licensed volunteers at the Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia (ORRCA) on (02) 9415 3333.

Contact: Sarah Scroope