Leopard seal chills in Westhaven marina
A leopard seal is making her presence well-known in the Waitemata Harbour, making Westhaven Marina her home and becoming somewhat of a nuisance.
The National Institute of Water and Atmosphere (Niwa) Auckland’s marine biosecurity team had to called off a dive for the Ministry of Primary Industries last week as a precaution.
Seals are known to be aggressive to humans.
Niwa marine ecology technician Andrew Miller says they will let the seal move on before attempting to do the dive again.
‘‘We decided to not [dive] as a precautionary measure as they’ve been known to be aggressive and they’re quite big beasts with sharp teeth.’’
In 2003 a snorkelling biologist was killed by one, but that is the only death attributed to the mammals. Leopard seals are big mammals and normally found along the edge of the Antarctic. Female seals usually weigh around 300 kilograms. They are the second largest species of seal in the Antarctic, after the southern elephant seal. Leopard seals are protected under the Wildlife Act 1953 and the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978.
Miller says the seals are known to occasionally come up to the warmer waters of New Zealand. However, it’s uncommon for a seal to stay for this length of time, he says.
The female seal has been quite happy swimming through the whole of the Waitemata Harbour and has been up to St Heliers and even up as far as Bream Bay. Miller says the Department of Conservation has been monitoring the seal closely and is asking members of the public to take a picture and send it in to monitor her location.
‘‘We’re not sure whether or not it was sick when it arrived and just stayed on, but DOC says it seems happy.’’
It’s an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal.
HOW TO APPROACH SEALS
• Stay at least 20m away.
• Don’t disturb seals by making loud noises or throwing things.
• Keep dogs and children away.
• Don’t feed them.
• Never attempt to touch a seal.
Visit doc.govt.nz for more information.
A female leopard seal has made herself at home in the Waitemata Harbour.