Monday, 9 May 2016

Montague Island, SE Australia, Fur Seals

There are two thriving colonies of fur seals on Montague Island. 

The island itself is a wonderful nature marine reserve, isolated from the mainland.

In nurseries around the island, mothers were hard at work encouraging babies to learn to swim.

Grey Nurse Sharks patrol these shores but others seal were in the water keeping careful watch.

The seal population have been increasing for a number of years, but pressure on seal food sources may be pushing the seals to turn to other food sources, perhaps penguins. Unlike seals, the penguin population is not increasing for a number of complex reasons.

Pressure on seal feeding sources may be coming from an new human source. Controversy has dogged the activities of the 95 m Dutch based super trawler Geelong Star (formerly known as Dirk Dirk) as it takes large numbers of fish along the South Eastern Australian coast line (concentrating on offshore small pelagic fish). The trawler has incurred the wrath of local fishers as well as environmental activists and state environmental officials. It was reportedly (in early 2016) banned from fishing for a period following the death of albatrosses. Earlier, a number of dolphin deaths were met by a statement from Environment Minister Greg Hunt that the "deaths (were) unacceptable and outrageous".

Mystery surrounds an event that received public attention in mid-February concerning claims that the Geelong Star ensnared a whale shark before releasing the animal into the water. Video of the release shows the whale shark thrashing on release, possibly a sign of distress. Before releasing the video, on 16 February 2016 the Small Pelagic Fishery Industry Association Inc. claimed that earlier reports of a death of the whale shark were "a complete and utter fabrication. A whale shark came alongside the net, the vessel manoeuvred away from the whale shark, the whale shark was not injured and swam away. Two AFMA observers were on board at the time and the sighting of the whale shark and measures to avoid it were reported to AFMA. No whale shark has been harmed by the Geelong Star."

Commentary: Based on releases by PFIA, AFMA, environmental agencies and activists, interviews with local fishers, tour operators and officials.

This is one of a series of posts prepared following Earth Day about Montague Island to explore challenges facing this area #CreateCommunityEarthDayThe initial post can be found: Crea+e posts in this series can be found at the +Google+ collection Create a Better World at:

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