By On Thursday, September 26th, 2013 Categories : Review

Seal swims are becoming more popular as a summer tourist attraction, with one commercial seal swim at Tonga Island and three at Kaikoura. Seal swims were observed at both Tonga Island and Kaikoura in order. to assess whether organized swim programmes are impacting the seals in any way. The proportion of seals interacting, showing no apparent response, or avoiding the swimmers were recorded and used to compare the approach types and various strategies used by the four seal swim companies. The number of seals on the rocks targeted by the swim and any response. The number of seals swimming within 20 m ofthe swimmers.  The number of seals showing interactive behaviours (defined as: swimming within 2 m or less of the tourists, swimming underneath tourists, or leaping around the tourists).
All tourist approaches (Le. boat, person, or kayaks in the vicinity of seals) were recorded opportunistically whenever they occurred. The type of approach, distance between the approacher and the closest seal and response of the seal(s) were recorded. Land, kayak and boat traffic were analysed in a similar manner to the controlled approach data.
Guided Seal Walk
A guided seal walk at Lynch’s Reef, Kaikoura was run during the summer of 2000-2001 on a trial basis under a temporary permit from DOC. Observations were made on this walk in a similar manner to tourist approaches , where the number of tourists, distance to seal(s) and the response of the seal(s) were recorded. The data were used to compare percentage of seals responding to approaches of different distances and to approaches of different group size.