Spotted a seal at the beach?

Monday, 4 December 2017

A seal at the beach may just be resting, but if you have concerns about the welfare of the seal, there is a service to assist. If you own a dog, keep it away from seals and other wildlife at all times. 

Seals spenD most of their time at sea or on offshore islands, but at this time of year you may see a seal on rocky areas and beaches on the coast. Whilst this is not a seal’s usual habitat, it is not automatically a cause for concern.

Such seals are likely to be juvenile seals who post-weaning are learning to feed on their own and simply taking a rest.

Do not try and return the seal to the sea or throw water over it as it is likely that the seal is conserving its energy until it can return to its colony. Remember, seals are not here for a photo opportunity and should be left in peace to be given the best chance of survival.

Of course, sadly not all seals survive and many die from natural causes. They risk injury from marine entanglements and whilst they are a resilient species, there are circumstances where human intervention is necessary.

If you spot a seal and have concerns for its health and welfare, please contact the Zoos Victoria AGL Marine Response Unit, reporting the location, size, condition and any behavioral observations of the seal. If possible, take a photo to assist the Unit in making an assessment.

For your own safety and the well-being of the seal, there is a legal requirement to keep at least 30 metres from a seal on land. Even if the beach is off-leash, dogs must be kept on a leash and at least 50 metres away from a seal.  Be aware when walking your dog that a seal sighting is a possibility and take heed of any additional signage protecting the seal from interference.  Not only can dogs injure or frighten seals, or vice versa, but they can also transmit disease.

To give a seal the best chance of survival, report sightings of seals in distress and do not attempt to intervene directly, or feed the seal. Feeding can encourage habituation to humans and cause sickness if given the incorrect food.

If you are on a boat and a seal approaches, please slow down to prevent any injuries. If you are fishing, ensure that you safely dispose  of fishing line and hooks and remove the line from the water if you see a seal.

Seals are protected by law by the Wildlife Act 1975. Anyone harassing or harming a seal could face fines of $6,000 or a 6 month prison sentence.

For further information on assessing a seal for injury, please view the encountering seals page in the wildlife section of the Environment, Land, Water and Planning Department website.

Contact the Marine Response Unit on 1300 245 678. They will also assist seabirds and turtles.

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