A video shared to social media and showing a man harassing a seal pup on a New Zealand beach is under investigation by the Department of Conservation.
The video shows a man in a wetsuit grabbing the young kekeno by the scruff of its neck and putting it into a bag.
It is an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 to disturb, harass, harm, injure, or kill a seal.
Matt Davis, DOC Principal Investigation Officer, says the behaviour shown in the video is inexcusable and will bear consequences for the offender.
“The video is quite distressing, showing someone handling a juvenile seal very roughly and possibly injuring the animal,” Matt says.
“DOC has a range of enforcement tools available for punishment of wildlife crimes, including fines, infringements, or a prosecution through the courts which can lead to a jail sentence.”
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 of up to $250,000.
“Although we don’t yet know the full circumstances of the incident the video shows, there is no excuse for treating a seal like this.”
If you see anyone disturbing fur seals call the DOC emergency hotline 0800 DOC HOT (0800 362 468) and report it.
DOC’s advice is to never touch or handle a seal. People should keep a distance of at least 20 metres from kekeno, if possible, and not get between the seal and the sea.
For more information on sharing spaces with marine mammals, go to the DOC website.