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Funding to tackle seal impacts

23 July 2015

The State Government will invest $100,000 for research into fishing gear, methods and deterrent devices in an effort to reduce impacts of long-nosed fur seals on Coorong fishers.

Primary Industries and Regions South Australia (PIRSA) and the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) were each providing $50,000 for the project.

It is important that fishers are given help in finding a way to co-exist with long-nosed fur seals, which are a natural part of our marine environment.

PIRSA and DEWNR have been working closely with the Southern Fishermen’s Association to address the impact of seals.

As part of the process, the setup up a high-level working group will be created to investigate and address issues associated with fur seals and their interactions with industries and the environment.

The Coorong fishery is one of the oldest in the state and there is a commitment to working with the fishers to ensure its long-term, sustainable survival.

By trialling humane, non-lethal deterrents such as small underwater crackers known as seal scarers could add a new tool to assist fishers to manage seal impacts.

The best science is showing that culling is not the answer to managing interactions between fur seals and fishers.

Experience from overseas fisheries has shown selective culling is ineffective, as removing one seal means that another will simply move in to take advantage of the available food.

Relocation has shown to be similarly ineffective, with experience from Tasmania showing seals return to their original locations within days, with some moved up to six times a year.

Long-nosed fur seals are native to our state – not introduced pests – and were nearly wiped out in the early 19th century through concerted hunting.

The best information we have indicates they are now returning to numbers seen before European settlement.

But it’s clear that long-nosed fur seals are having an impact on certain sectors, and that’s why we’re trialling these new measures; there is no reason that we cannot have healthy fisheries while also protecting the native animals that are such a drawcard for tourists to South Australia.

Nature-based tourism accounts for $1.1 billion in expenditure in our state each year – culling a protected species would have detrimental effects on this key economic driver as well as the broader reputation South Australia enjoys as a clean, green and sustainable environment.

DEWNR is also working with the Ngarrindjeri Regional Authority to better understand cultural issues relating to their ngartji (totem) species such as pelicans, and look into what long-term solutions can be applied.

Image of Fur Seals on the Beach