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Information needed over unexplained seal deaths

Information needed over unexplained seal deaths

Dead Seal on Ward
Beach
Click to enlarge

Hon Steve Chadwick
Minister of Conservation

18 December 2007 Media Release

Information needed over unexplained seal deaths

Conservation Minister Steve Chadwick says more information is needed to find out what happened to 15 fur seals found dead on the Marlborough coast.

Steve Chadwick says our worst fear is that the seals may have been deliberately killed. Some of them show signs of being shot, and the circumstances in which they were found also suggest they did not die of natural causes.

Department of Conservation (DOC) rangers found the 15 seal carcasses last week at Needle Point south of Ward beach, after calls from the public. The animals are believed to have died over the past year, but many are too decomposed to find out the cause of death.

Steve Chadwick says because of this difficulty, information from the public is extremely important for DOC to find out what happened.

“The deaths are not easily explained and this is deeply concerning. I’m appealing for more information about this incident. We need to find out more from members of the public about what happened to these animals.”

Three seals are thought to have died in the past month or so. Two of them had blood spattered around them, and a large bull seal had a small hole in his side that looked like a bullet wound.

Two of the seals that died most recently appear to have been shot in the head, and two more appear to have been shot in the body.

The dead seals were found 20 to 30 metres above the high tide line, which also indicates they did not die naturally. Seals that die of natural causes are usually found just above the high tide mark, as sick seals are unlikely to move so far inshore.

Fur seals and other marine mammals are protected by law. It is an offence to kill or harm marine mammals, with penalties of up to six months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000, plus a further fine of up to $10,000 for every marine mammal the offence was committed against.

Three men were each fined $2500 in relation to shooting at seals, killing one, on the Otago coast in 2005. A Wellington man was fined $650 for throwing stones at seals on Wellington’s south coast in 2006.

Anyone with information should contact DOC’s South Marlborough Area Office (03) 572 9100.

ENDS

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