In an ominous development, a wild seal has bitten an experienced charter boat skipper when he was down checking out catches on the NSW south coast.
John Moore said the seal came up from behind and bit him on the leg on Sunday, February 4, with the bite requiring treatment at Moruya Hospital and a dose of antibiotics.
He blames a group of young fishermen and others hand feeding the seals the remains of their catches at Narooma’s Apex Park, which unfortunately has led one or more seals to become overly aggressive.
“A word of advice to fisho’s - 'Don't feed the seals',” Mr Moore said. “This seal bit me because I wasn't carrying food for him, others had fed him earlier and he has been 'trained', and will only get more aggressive now.”
Mr Moore alleges several other people have been charged or bitten by a seal at the Apex Park boat ramp, but the Narooma News has been unable to confirm this. The News last week covered the issue of seals invading the breakwaters and footpaths.
The National Parks and Wildlife Services continues to monitor seal and human interaction at the ramp, the breakwaters and also a an injured bull seal that last week decided to haul out onto the footpath at the Narooma town wharf.
Both National Parks and volunteers from the ORRCA organisation have repeated warnings to stay well away from the seals at locations such as fish cleaning tables and on breakwalls and footpaths.
A NPWS spokesperson said the service was working with the Eurobodalla Shire Council and the Department of Primary Industries Marine Parks Authority to implement management options to reduce conflict in the Apex Park fish cleaning table area.
“It is important to remind people to not feed the seals or encourage them in any way as this can lead to conflict,” the spokesperson said.
“With the support of Eurobodalla Shire Council, NPWS and ORRCA are also monitoring another seal which is hauling out at the Narooma wharf precinct.
“People are reminded to give seals plenty of space and respect areas that have been cordoned off for the safety of both the public and the seal.”
Locals are urged to take care around seals and give them space. Seals are wild animals and can be unpredictable; they move fast on land and may bite if frightened. Supervise children and restrain pets at all times, and never walk between a seal and the water.
Seals have an exclusion zone of 40 metres from adult seals for people and vessels, and 80 metres from pups.
The male Australian fur seal that last week hauled out on the footpath and fish cleaning table at the Narooma town wharf now appears to have moved on, although the signs and barricades erected by National Parks remain in place.
Local volunteers from ORRCA (Organisation for the Rescue and Research of Cetaceans in Australia) were also on scene to monitor the bull seal and offer advice to passers-by.
Shona Lorigan from ORRCA said the seal had initially shown signs of injury with possible cuts from fishing line and at least one fish hook embedded.
While it had lost some condition and gotten thinner during its days on land, later in the week it had started looking stronger and was resting but often swam away for food, so its prospects looked good.
ORRCA was also monitoring another seal, this time a long nosed or New Zealand fur seal, at the southern breakwater that had a flipper injury, but it too seemed to be recovering.