DOC hopeful of catching seal killer

"CALLOUS" SHOOTING: A seal pup, thought to be about 11 months old, was shot in the head near Kaikoura.
"CALLOUS" SHOOTING: A seal pup, thought to be about 11 months old, was shot in the head near Kaikoura.

Department of Conservation workers "live in hope" of catching the culprit who shot two seals in the head near Kaikoura.

The two seals, one female and an 11-month-old pup, were found by with gunshot wounds to their heads by a volunteer from Ohau Seals Volunteers at Ohau Point seal colony, north of Kaikoura, on Saturday.

They were found just below the Ohau Point seal lookout beside State Highway 1.

The dead seals were about 50 metres apart.

DOC South Marlborough area manager David Hayes said it was not known if the female seal was the pup's mother.

"There's no way of knowing... if it's not, there's another pup affected as well," he said.

Hayes hoped someone would have a conscience and come forward with information to catch the culprit.

"We still live in hope somebody may have seen something," he said.

"It makes you question the motivation of why people would do that?

"When I think of the thousands of people that interact with these seals each year, about 12,000 a month go up to the waterfall just away from the colony; really these incidents aren't very frequent which probably makes it more horrific."

He said there were about 10,000 seals at the Ohau Point breeding colony, one of the biggest on the east coast.

"A lot of the pups born there find their way up to the waterfall just to hang out," Hayes said.

The two seals appeared to have been shot at close range between late Friday afternoon and around midday Saturday.

Hayes said New Zealand fur seals were protected by law and it was an offence to kill or harm them.

Under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 there were penalties of up to six months imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000 for killing or harming fur seals or other marine mammals, plus a further fine of up to $10,000 for every marine mammal the offence was committed against.

In late 2010, 25 seals, including pups, were found beaten to death at Ohau Point seal colony. Two men were later arrested. One man was convicted in relation to the seal killings and the trial of the other man in relation to it is scheduled to take place in September.

"Most people thankfully respect seals and appreciate seeing them on our coast. Ohau Point is a popular stop-off between Picton and Kaikoura to view seals," Hayes said.

"The Ohau Stream waterfall pool inland from the seal colony, where seal pups gather and play between May and September, has become a highly popular attraction with around 12,000 visits a month."

Anyone with information is asked to contact our DOC South Marlborough office, (03) 572 9100 or Kaikoura police.

The Press