Seals return to the Coromandel for winter.

08 Jun 2021

A contribution by the Department of Conservation.

As winter drives down sea temperatures, New Zealand fur seals/kekeno will begin returning to the rocky shores around the Coromandel. 

During autumn and winter - from around May until August - New Zealand fur seals spend more time out of the water on rocky coastlines and beaches during their haul-out period. The fur seals use this time to bask, rest and look after their pups. The seals were once hunted for their meat, fur and oil, driving their population to the brink of extinction, so we are lucky to be able to enjoy them along our coastlines today. 

Department of Conservation ranger, Marie Everth, says kekeno are extremely charismatic and interesting animals and have often been observed interacting with divers or surfers around the Coromandel. “Although it is fantastic to get to see these seals in real life, it’s important to remember they are wild animals and should be respected,” she says. 

“Please keep at least 20m away from the seals. They are known to carry infectious diseases and can also give a nasty bite, so it’s best to give them as much space as possible and observe them from a distance.”

Dog owners enjoying Coromandel beaches should also be very wary of seals and ensure their pets are kept on a lead until they are well clear of any seal. It is an offence under the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978 to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal. A dog owner whose dog attacks a seal could face prosecution. 

“The Department of Conservation gets many calls from the community during winter about seals believed to be sick or needing help,” Marie says. “It’s important to be able to recognise what normal seal behaviour is and when it’s appropriate to call DOC for assistance. Seals will often wave their flippers around, this is them just having a stretch, so people do not need to worry  - the seals are definitely not waving for help. You may see seals coughing, sneezing, or crying and these are all normal seal behaviour. It’s also normal to see seal pups spending time away from their mothers.”

If you see a seal in obvious danger such entangled in debris, seriously injured, on a public road or being harassed at a beach, then please a call DOC on 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468). If you would like to know more about the New Zealand fur seal, please visit the DOC website, www.doc.govt.nz.

Pictured: New Zealand fur seal swimming amongst the kelp, photo captured by local diver Ryan Hansen from Dive Zone Whitianga.