Bay of Islands Seals

NZ Fur Seal

Threat status: least concern (population trend: increasing).

Seals belong to a group of mammals known as ‘pinnipeds’ which have streamlined bodies and limbs modified into flippers.

Fur seals are regular visitors to the Bay of Islands – for winter haulout

During winter NZ fur seals spend time foraging, resting and waiting on rocky haul outs around the New Zealand coastline. We are lucky to see them here in the Bay of Islands and the population is increasing

From May/June to October each year there’s an influx in adolescent seals appearing on our shores and further inland. This is because seal pups begin to wean as their mothers prepare for new pups and are push out.

New Zealand fur seal/kekeno spend a lot of their time hauled out on rocky shores, at both breeding colonies and non-breeding ‘haul-outs’. Every year, these sociable animals return to the same area for the breeding season.

New Zealand fur seals can be distinguished by their external ear flaps, hind flippers, pointy nose and small size.

  • The NZ fur seal is New Zealand’s most common marine mammal.
  • Seals haul out to rest, regain energy and to stay safe.
  • Fur seal whiskers catch the vibrations of prey swimming nearby.
  • Fur seals are perfectly streamlined for swimming and diving.
  • Large round eye help Kekeno see in the dark water.
  • Seal often look like they are crying – the “tears” are natural secretions.

Safety guidelines when watching seals.

When marine mammals are onshore:

  • give seals and sea lions space stay at least 20 m away if you can
  • avoid coming between fur seals and the sea
  • keep dogs on a leash and well away
  • do not drive vehicles closer than 50 m of a marine mammal if you can
  • never attempt to touch seals or sea lions – they can be aggressive and often carry diseases.

If you’re travelling at sea near marine mammals:

  • travel no faster than idle or ‘no wake’ speed within 300 m
  • make sure there are no more than three vessels within 300 m, including any aircraft
  • approach from a direction that is parallel and slightly to the rear
  • do not circle the marine mammals, obstruct their path or cut through any groups
  • idle slowly away.
  • vessels need to stay at least 50 m away from the water’s edge where seals may be present.

All seals, sea lions, dolphins and whales are protected under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978. It’s an offence to harass, disturb, injure or kill marine mammals.