Surveyors happy with seal picture

A recent seal population 8survey has found fur seals are thriving along the South Coast of WA, but conservationists hold serious concerns for the Australian sea lion population.

The Department of Environment and Conservation’s survey along the Recherche Archipelago found the overall New Zealand fur seal population had increased over the past decade from 15,100 to 17,500 animals.

Albany-based Department of Environment and Conservation fauna conservation officer Peter Collins said officers were pleased with the outcome of the 11-day survey.

Pups were counted at the end of the annual pupping season in February to identify the overall fur seal population.

Despite the overall population increase, Mr Collins said there were some concern.

“On the islands from Bremer Bay to Hopetoun along the Fitzgerald coast is a significant decrease in New Zealand fur seals, and at this stage we don’t know why that is,” he said.

Although the survey focused on fur seals, Mr Collins said surveyors also held concerns for the Australian sea lion population, which appeared to be declining.

“Australian sea lions occupy a range slightly bigger than fur seals, from Israelite Bay in WA through to the Abrolhos, but we know their numbers are significantly lower than fur seals – less than 10,000 for the entire WA population,” he said.

Mr Collins said the DEC would conduct more work on sea lions over the next year, and could tag them for research.

“We need to look at what factors are causing sea lion population to decline and look at ways to preserve them in the face of decline,” he said.

Got a story? Email