Saturday, 20 July 2019

WHITIANGA WEATHER

“Seal season” has started

“Seal season” has started. Although seals are marine mammals, they spend a lot of their time on land, especially between June and September.

“We often get calls from people this time of the year concerned about a seal they’ve seen looking sick,” says Emily McKeague, the community ranger based in the DOC Whitianga field base. “It’s great that the community cares so much, but the behaviour that concerns the public is almost always normal. Seals are very good at resting and they take a long time doing it, either drifting in the water or resting on land.

“They often cough and sneeze as well. It may look odd, but there’s noting to be concerned about. It will likely be the seal getting rid of unwanted food like squid beaks and fish bones.

“It’s also important to know that seals don’t cry. They don’t have tear ducts. What people perceive to be tears are normal moisture secretions.”

DOC is interested to hear from people where a seal is visibly injured or entangled in marine debris like discarded fishing nets, is being harassed by people, dogs and other animals, or is in a dangerous place such as a public road or street.

People with a genuine concern can phone DOC at 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468).

“The Whitianga Waterways seems to be favourite local spot for seals the past few years,” says Emily. “This year a few have been spotted in the Waterways already, one on the deck of a home on the canals.

“We urge people to stay at least 20m away when they see a seal. We also want to ask the public to not feed any seals, make loud noises in their proximity or throw things at them. Dogs need to be kept away and please never try to touch a seal. They’re aggressive when stressed. They will bite and can cause serious injury and infection.”

Seals, sea lions, dolphins and whales are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. Under the act, it’s an offence to harass, disturb, injure or kill seals. Anyone charged with a breach of the act faces a maximum penalty of two years imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000.

Emily McKeague is one of about 15 rangers employed in the Department of Conservation’s Coromandel District Office. The office has two field bases, one in Whitianga (where Emily is working from) and one in Coromandel Town. The office is responsible for all DOC work on the Coromandel Peninsula north of the Tapu-Coroglen Road.

As community ranger, Emily works with volunteer conservation groups, eg groups undertaking wetland restoration projects, and is also responsible for informing and education the community about important conservation issues.

Pictured: A few seals, including this one, have been spotted in the Whitianga Waterways this year already.

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