Rewarding population recovery with a cull? Shooting fur seals is not the answer
Humane Society International (HSI) is disappointed to read reports regarding a proposal to shoot long-nosed fur seals in South Australia and calls on the South Australian Parliament to vote down MP Adrian Pederick’s anticipated Private Members Bill. The recovery of a native species is an event to celebrate, and efforts to mitigate their impacts on fisheries must focus on non-lethal alternatives rather than culling.
HSI Director Michael Kennedy said, “It’s rare to see native species recovering from population declines as well as the long-nosed fur seal has in this region of South Australia. However, the challenges faced by populations of long-nosed fur seals nationally should give us pause for thought before rushing to legislate to allow shooting of a recovering South Australian population.”
Mr Pederick’s claims regarding the impact of the seals on local fishing businesses are questionable, with Dr Brad Page of the South Australian Department of the Environment stating that the majority of fur seals feed a long way from where the most sought after fish for human consumption are taken, and importantly catch species not commonly seen in fish shops such as red bait and arrow squid (ABC News, 24 April 2015)1.
Mr Kennedy continued, “The idea that some sort of seal meat export market should be created from this local population is completely wrong. Australia’s native species are not a resource that we can opportunistically sell for food when populations recover; we need a more sophisticated response.”
HSI is also concerned about significant safety and animal welfare issues such a move would raise, with a study from the 1990s reporting on the use of permits to scare or kill seals at Tasmanian fish farms finding that shooting was “dangerous to personnel and ineffective, as many seals were not properly shot.”2
“Mr Pederick’s argument is that scare tactics do not work to keep seals from exhibiting their natural behaviours, so the only answer is to cull. HSI completely disagrees. A recovering population of long-nosed fur seals can only mean one thing, healthy wild fish stocks, and culling a native species just to make fishing easier should certainly not be an option. Further research into the issue and non-lethal alternatives is necessary, not this knee-jerk response.” Mr Kennedy concluded.