Finding a shot and "professionally skinned" seal washed up on a Hawke's Bay beach has shocked Department of Conservation staff.
They have called for anyone who knew who was responsible to report them.
The New Zealand seal (kekeno) remains had been in the water for sometime before washing ashore near the Port of Napier and being found at the weekend, conservation services manager Dave Carlton said.
It was unclear where the seal was killed, but seals were often seen "resting on our beaches" or swimming nearby.
"What was obvious was the seal had been killed and this is a clear offence under the Marine Mammal Protection Act 1978, and a successful prosecution could result in up to a year in prison or a maximum fine of $100,000."
He said the seal may have been killed by someone who believed seals ate too much fish in the area, depriving fishermen, or have been slaughtered by someone indulging in target practice.
"This sort of behaviour is incomprehensible. Contrary to some thinking, seals do not impact significantly on the local fish population. They feed mainly on squid and small mid-water fish, mostly off the continental shelf.
"Alternatively, using the animal as target practice then skinning it was equally insidious."
The seal had been "professionally skinned", he said, either on the shore or out at sea and then dumped overboard.
"Before the arrival of humans, a population of about 2 million kekeno inhabited New Zealand.
"We would like to hear from anybody with information . . . someone may notice a fur seal skin hanging in someone's garage, for instance," Carlton said.
- The Dominion Post
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