Local department staff will start scoping a research project into the interaction between NZ fur seals and little penguins after a meeting of 60 people in Kingscote last week called on the government to act on declining penguin numbers in Kingscote and Penneshaw.
Department for Environment and Natural
Resources regional manager Bill Haddrill said the meeting had been a valuable opportunity to clarify points regarding seals and penguins and to hear a variety of views on the issue. The meeting passed three resolutions, but not unanimously.
The first called for the research, the second that the State Government form an “abundant
native species management plan on the effects of the rapidly increasing numbers of fur seals on SA marine life and the environment”.
The third and most contentious resolution asks “that the government do everything in its power to protect the commercial penguin colony from seal predation for a three-year period”.
KI Penguin Centre manager John Ayliffe, who called the public meeting, said the third resolution was important because there was no point in
researching the interaction if there were no
“There was a wide cross-section of people there from fishermen, residents, tourist operators and those in the conservation business. There was pretty much consensus that there is a problem,” Mr
Fisherman Bevan Patterson said he had lived and worked around the coast on the island for more than 60 years and he had witnessed the growth in NZ fur seal numbers in the past decade.
He said evidence showed that with current trends and breeding patterns, the number of seals around the island could double from 40,000 to 80,000 in the next six years.
“If that happens, what sort of effect will that have on our marine environment. This could be a wider problem, not just about penguins,” he said.
“I don’t know the answer but we need more
information and some honest views on the effects.”
Meeting chairman Deputy Mayor Peter Clements said the meeting had been difficult for Mr Haddrill.
“Where meetings are deliberately politicized from the start, government agency staff should not be placed in the position Mr Haddrill was. This
could have been remedied by the presence of the
Environment Minister, Mr Caica.”
He said the Kangaroo Island Council would
consider the resolutions and determine whether it had a position on the issue.