Kayaks, Skis, SUPs, Sit on Tops – Give Fur Seals a Wide Berth
The number of Australian Fur Seals in Tasmanian Waters have been increasing over the years and with it there is an increasing chance of encounters with seals when paddling.
Fur Seals are common in the Derwent and D’ Entrecasteaux Channel, Bass Strait and all other Tasmanian waters, and Leopard Seals less common. Fur Seals close to population centres are increasingly habituated to humans through interactions with fish farms and recreational fishers and the public at places like Constitution Dock.
While mostly avoiding or uninterested in paddlers there have been a number of incidents where Seal interaction with paddlers could have led to tragedy, with paddlers knocked from their craft and in one incident repeatedly knocked into the water which, combined with adverse weather conditions, resulted in long periods of immersion, hypothermia and a helicopter rescue. This paddler was highly experienced and well equipped, but would not have survived much longer without rescue.
Although Seal behaviour may seem playful it could have a tragic outcome for a paddler. But there are also reports of very aggressive seal behaviour, mainly in competition for fish with humans, but this may extend to aggression to paddlers. A male Fur Seal can be over 2m long and close to 400kg, and a Leopard Seal 3.5m long and 600kg, and they can easily capsize and damage paddle craft.
Paddle Tasmania advises all paddlers to keep an eye out for Seals and give them a wide berth when paddling in case they perceive you as a threat or competition for food, or as a plaything to be knocked about..