Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura and DOC are investigating the deaths of 11 fur seals on the Kaikōura coast.
DOC says five adult seals were found dead at Half Moon Bay and another six dead adult seals were located at Ōhau Point, north of the Kaikōura township.
DOC South Marlborough Operations Manager, Phil Bradfield says it’s not yet known what caused the seals’ deaths.
“The seals at Half Moon Bay are badly decomposed and it’s not been possible to confirm what caused their deaths, but there was blood at the site and their deaths are thought unlikely to be from natural causes,” he said.
“We haven’t been able to closely examine the dead seals in the Ōhau Point Fur Seal Sanctuary because of their position in the breeding colony and the time of year. It is a narrow, tidal area and accessing it would require people moving through and disturbing groups of heavily pregnant females and young pups.
“It also seems unlikely these six seals would have died from natural causes so closely together.
“Sadly, there were two distressed seal pups sitting with two of the bodies, so it’s possible their mothers may have been among the dead seals.”
DOC staff searched the Kaikōura coastline yesterday but didn’t find any other seals that appeared to have been killed, he said.
“Though we can’t be certain at this time how the seals died, it is deeply disappointing the indications so far are they have been deliberately killed. Seals have been re-establishing on the Kaikōura coastline after the 2016 earthquake damaged parts of their habitat. They are a popular sight, with people driving on State Highway 1 often stopping to look at the seals, including at the Ōhau Point viewing area.”
“Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura and DOC take very seriously any harm to fur seals which are a taonga and legally-protected species,” Mr Bradfield said.
The penalties for harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a marine mammal under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 are a maximum two years’ imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000.
DOC is working with police to investigate the deaths and anyone who has information about it is asked to contact 0800 DOC HOT (0800 36 24 68) or Kaikōura Police via 105 and quote file number 211103/1981. Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.