CONSERVATION NEW ZEALAND FUR SEALS
There is concern from the Department of Conservation that tourism may be adversely impacting individual seals and particularly seal breeding colonies. There is also some concern that tourists are risking their own safety with inappropriate behaviour around seals. The current regulations governing people’s behaviour around fur seals do not appear to be working. Tourists have been observed throwing rocks at seals and Whipping them with kelp in the past year at sites around Kaikoura (pers. obs.).
Fur seals are currently protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Regulations, New Zealand (1992, Regulation No. 322). This legislation aims to “make provision for the protection, conservation and management of marine mammals” and “to regulate human contact or behaviour with marine mammals, either by commercial operators or other persons, in order to prevent adverse effects on and interference with marine mammals.” Under the present regulations, it is illegal to harass fur seals harassment being defined as actions that disrupt significantly, or are likely to disrupt significantly, the normal behaviour patterns of an animal. To date no one in New Zealand has been prosecuted for “harassing a fur seal.” Of the fourteen Department of Conservation (DOC) conservancies, ten have permitted marine mammal viewing ventures. Seals can be viewed by land and from boat in the Wellington, and Nelson Marlborough conservancies. Many of the boat-based operators primarily target cetaceans, however they also target seals.