Leopard seals 'Owha' and 'Novy' have been spotted around Auckland's Westhaven Marina as well as Ōrākei boat club, Bayswater Marina, Hobsonville Point, Rangitoto wharf and Whangaparāoa.
Owha at Westhaven Marina
Novy in Whangaparaoa
Image: Rick Bout ©
DOC Auckland Marine Ranger Gabrielle Goodin says leopard seals are a protected species normally found in Antarctica, but an increasing number are visiting New Zealand.
"We're working closely with international seal experts, scientists, volunteers and the public to monitor and manage the leopard seals' movements. Over the Christmas and New Year holidays we had both volunteers and DOC staff in place to update boat owners and marina staff.
"DOC is also developing an action plan with Westhaven Marina staff for the long-term management of the leopard seals."
Gabrielle Goodin says it's important to remember that seals are wild animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened.
Follow these guidelines when watching seals for your safety and that of the animals:
- Stay at least 20 metres away
- Don't disturb the seals by making loud noises or throwing things
- Avoid getting between the seals and the water
- Keep dogs and children away
- Don't feed the seals
- Never attempt to touch a seal.
"We advise boat owners to keep small craft out of the water if possible and keep children and dogs inside dinghies rather than on the edge. If you're operating a dinghy and a leopard seal approaches, make your way to the nearest safe place slowly and safely," Gabrielle Goodin says.
Owha is familiar sight in Auckland. She was resident in Auckland waters from September 2015 to March 2017, and spent much of the 2017 moving between Whangārei and Tutukaka. Novy is a recent arrival to Auckland after spending approximately three months in and around Whangārei.
"Owha and Novy's presence, while a gift, has inconvenienced boaties. The seals are protected native wildlife and therefore must be given space and respect while they are in Auckland waters. We appreciate the efforts of local boaties and their patience," Gabrielle Goodin says.
It is an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 (MMPA) to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal. If a dog attacks a seal, the owner could face prosecution. Anyone convicted under the MMPA with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a seal faces a maximum penalty of two years' imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000.
To report any unusual seal behaviour, contact the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) which is staffed 24/7.