Whyalla moves to tackle seal issue

Whyalla Council has asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to place satellite trackers and dive recorders on 30 per cent of fur seals populating the Upper Spencer Gulf.

Last year, Giant Cuttlefish numbers in the Upper Spencer Gulf were estimated to have dropped by 80 per cent. Concurrently, local divers and fishermen reported fur seals not normally seen in the Upper Gulf where cuttlefish breed and aggregate in shallow waters.

As Giant Cuttlefish mostly have only one breeding cycle and live for about 12 months, Whyalla council considered it important to scientifically determine the cause of this decline.

Whyalla councillor Sarah Minney’s resolution, which was passed by the council last week, said that satellite trackers and dive recorders with real-time data collection were an important research tool to “determine if the seals are concentrating their feeding on the cuttlefish aggregation areas”.

Kingscote’s John Ayliffe, who has repeatedly expressed the need to monitor the Kangaroo Island fur seal population to determine if they are preying on local penguin colonies said Whyalla Council’s resolution was a really important development.

“It’s critical to understand what changes will occur in the local marine environment through an increase in fur seal numbers.

“The only way to do this is through ongoing, scientific monitoring of fur seals around commercial fishing areas for years to come.”

Mr Ayliffe said he understands that Kangaroo Island Council has received a letter from some local fishermen who wished to have a similar motion passed to track seals between North Cape and Kangaroo Head to determine where they’re foraging.

“I also understand there’s been a request to the KI Department of Environment and Natural Resources for a scat analysis to determine what the seals are eating.”

Part two of the Whyalla council Resolution is for the council to obtain funding for research.

Catherine Murphy