New Zealand fur Seals ( Kekeno ) were absent from Whale Island aka Moutohora Island in recorded history until the 1990s, Then several large bulls were present for several months annually. Over the next few years females and then young ones started to show around the shore.
The seals first settled just in behind the North Western tip of Whale Island where the face was very steep and exposed.
Now the seals have settled on the Eastern and Sth. Eastern end of the Island near McEwans Bay.
The seals are very playful and will make close passes at divers and swimmers blowing bubbles from their noses as they go.
Lack of information as to where the seals came from or what local impacts, patterns etc was known lead Philip van Dusschoten of Whale Island Tours and Rosemary Tully, local Marine Mammals sightings co-ordinator, to apply for and recieve a 2 year concession issued by the Department of Conservation to study them.
The establishment of a local seal colony on Whale ( Moutohora ) Island was of interest to the local community including;
Local maori, recreational and commercial fishing, conservationists, marine mammal watchers including many others.
The purpose of the 2 year study was to:
Assist and report to the Department of Conservation with as much information as possible to assist with management.
Assist with public information.
(In several places in New Zealands South Island, conflict has arisen between seals and fishermen due to seals becoming bold and stealing fish from lines, this boldness can be brought about by fishers deliberatly or innadvertantly feeding seals)
Findings, Photos and videos will be posted as information comes to hand.
Information recieved from DOC re tagged seal 3rd Photo above.
The tagged animal (attached photo, #5875, pale green) is a boy. He was marked as a 4-8 week old at Wekakura Point rookery (north of Heaphy River mouth, N. W. Nelson), late January 2002, by G. Quinn & Associates (DOC, Karamea); purveyors of fine tagged fur seal pups since 1991.
Green #5875 is now a 6 yr old, sexually mature 'teenager' though not socially mature. Socially mature adult males who hold breeding territories in late November - early January are mainly 10yrs+ old (12-14yrs is probably prime age). This later age for male social maturity is related to them being BIG enough and SMART enough to hold ground against other triers, with least cost to themselves. Nothing quite like looking big and brutal enough to bluff all but the most serious triers.
A second similar tagged seal was noted but details could not be obtained, A seal with a red tag was also noted in November 07.
Seal count October 2008. 150 - 180, Plenty of seals and pups everywhere around island
Seal Count November 2008 25- 50, Seals appear to have dissappeared, sea conditions full of jellyfish.
Since 2010 seals have been activly breeding around the Island and remain year round.
At the conclusion of Phil and Rosemaries study a comprehensive report was submitted to the Department of Conservation.
Since the summer of 2010 parties are now able to enjoy swimming with the seals and from our observations the seals enjoy it just as much.