Seal safety on Waikawa Beach

Beware seals on the beach in the winter months. They can easily harm you or your dogs, and it’s against the law to harm them.

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.

Seal on the beach.
Seal on the beach. This seal ran extremely fast from an approaching car.

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.

Department of Conservation says:

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.

Seal floating in the sea.
This seal ran from a car then seemed to be floating in the sea. It came back on the beach, further along, several minutes later though.

Photos by Miraz Jordan.