In winter seals often visit Waikawa Beach to rest. It’s a time when drivers, walkers, horse riders and dog owners need to be particularly careful. Seals can look like driftwood, hide on or beside driftwood, and look from a distance like a dog. They can also move extremely fast and inflict serious injuries.
If you’re driving along the beach go slowly and watch out for seals. The potential conflict is that the law says you must drive below the latest high tide mark, and that’s exactly where seals are most likely to be.
Follow these simple guidelines when watching seals for your safety and that of the animals:
- stay at least 20 m away
- don’t disturb seals by making loud noises or throwing things
- keep dogs and children away
- don’t feed the seals
- never attempt to touch a seal.
It is an offence under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 (MMPA) to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill a seal. A dog owner whose dog attacks a seal could face prosecution. Anyone charged under the MMPA with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a seal faces a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000.
We’ve also learned from personal experience that if they go back into the sea after a scare they may still come back onto the beach, possibly along from where you saw them. Once you’ve spotted a seal keep your dog on a leash until you leave.
Photos by Miraz Jordan.