Seal relocation highlights community role


A seal spotted near a construction site at St Kilda recently was relocated to a Barwon Heads beach by the Melbourne Zoo and Barwon Coast due to concerns for its welfare.

A sub Antarctic fur seal getting released onto a Barwon Heads Beach after it was relocated from a construction area in St Kilda breakwater
A sub Antarctic fur seal getting released onto a Barwon Heads Beach after it was relocated from a construction area in St Kilda breakwater

Melbourne Zoo Head of Veterinary Services Dr Michael Lynch said the Department of Environment and Primary Services (DEPI) informed the zoo that the Sub Antartic Fur Seal had been there for an extended period of time.

“Given the seal was resting near a construction site, DEPI were concerned it may be injured and asked that it be removed from the area.

The seal was healthy, with no evidence of illness or injury so we relocated it to a Barwon Heads beach where it would be within its natural range.

We have asked people to keep a look out for the seal to make sure it is managing well in its new location,” he said.  

Sub Antarctic fur seals breed in sub Antarctic island waters between November and December each year.

Barwon Coast community liaison and education manager Maddie Glynn said it was important for the public to notify the appropriate authority if they saw sick, injured or distressed seals on the coast.

“It all helps to build a picture of what’s going on and sometimes it can assist in the identification of diseases of importance,” she said.

“Not all mothers are good parents and some of the younger seals – skinny yearlings that are not in prime condition – start to emerge along the coast.

“We often give assistance and advice to people on the ground to help manage seals that are found resting on beaches.

“We build networks with communities and ask individuals to contact us if they have a concern so we can assess the situation.”

People are urged not to go close to seals – as they can bite – to keep dogs on leashes and to dispose of fishing line correctly to prevent injury and disease.

Community members are urged to use Melbourne Zoo’s Seal the Loop bins designed for the collection of fishing waste so seals do not become entangled. Photo: www.zoo.org.au
Community members are urged to use Melbourne Zoo’s Seal the Loop bins designed for the collection of fishing waste so seals do not become entangled. Photo: http://www.zoo.org.au

“Melbourne Zoo’s Seal the Loop program provides bins designed for the collection of fishing waste,” Dr Lynch said.

“Disposing of fishing lines in the bins provided is essential as seals can become entangled in discarded fishing gear.”

Ms Glynn said seals are protected by state legislation and people and their dogs must not come within 50 metres of a seal on land.

“An inquisitive dog that may approach a seal may be seen to be harassing the animal and owners face potential prosecution.”

Any concerns regarding seals should be reported to the DEPI customer service centre on 136 186. For a map of Seal the Loop bins head to zoo.org.au/sealtheloop.

For further information on what to do if you sight a seal or other marine animal on the seashore visit the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee website.

This story featured in the Surf Coast Times Green the Coast Column.

Remember a number of measures can be taken to protect the welfare of seals resting on our coast:
•   Do not come within 50 meters of a seal on land as they can bite
•   Keep dogs on leashes
•   Dispose of fishing line correctly to prevent injury and disease
•   Notify appropriate authorities if you come across a seal in distress

Related blogs:

km-entanglement-4_mg_7092 Volunteer saves injured hoodie
dog-on-the-beachTop tips to care for the coast

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