Fur seals: habitat preferences and human interaction
Australian and New Zealand Fur-seals are currently recovering from historic over-exploitation and are expanding their ranges within Australian waters. Both seals are colonising habitats along the NSW coast, where they will compete for resources with each other and with human use. Understanding habitat preferences of these seals at a time when their populations are low will greatly enhance the success of future conservation and management strategies both in NSW and elsewhere where seal populations are fluctuating. By tracking fur seals fitted with GPS and time-depth-recorders (TDR), we are able to gather information about fine-scale foraging and haul-out behaviour. With this information about habitat preferences we will be able to evaluate the relative importance of different habitats. When overlaid with information about habitat types, spatial zoning and distribution of human uses we will be able to discover the extent of interactions and inform management to minimise the potential for disturbance and harm to seals caused by human activity. Tracking seals once they leave the haul-out sites surrounding the NSW coast and return to breeding colonies will also provide valuable information on the population structure beyond NSW, and where the apparent increase in the NSW population is being seeded from. This has important implications for conserving the population as a whole rather than just protecting the animals while they are resident in a marine park.
Taronga: Dr David Slip
Macquarie University: Professor Rob Harcourt, Mr Matt Carr
Phillip Island Nature Park: Dr Roger Kirkwood
Shoalhaven Veterinary Clinic: Dr Justin Clarke
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