Coorong seals still in large numbers

Environment Minister Ian Hunter says trials of seal-deterring technology in the Coorong should continue despite reports they are not working.

Since March, the state government has tried using underwater crackers and other methods to scare the animals away and lessen their impact on the fishing industry.

But seal numbers appear to actually be increasing, says Coorong Wild Seafood’s Tracy Hill.

“Seals are building up in numbers,” she said.

“They were at their worst by end of winter last year so we expect the same this year.

“There are 100,000-plus New Zealand fur seals along the South Australian coast.

“We had several hundred in the Coorong last year and the same in the Lakes.”

The Southern Fisherman’s Association’s Neil MacDonald said more information would be available once the trials had been completed.

“We expect to have a preliminary report by the end of the month and that will help determine where to from here,” he said.

“Seal numbers are building in the system again and their impact is being felt; the full extent will only be known later in the year when we get to what was the peak period in the last couple of years.

“At present fishers are still working without any specific aids.

“There is an expectation that the preliminary advice from the trials will set up the path for their use on a regular basis across the fishery.

“Any decision will be subject to the outcome from the trial.”

Mr Hunter said it would be pointless to “pull up stumps” partway through the trial, regardless of its early results, particularly when no-one had any better ideas about how to address the problem.

“We’re at the cutting edge of this,” he said.

“There has been no successful plan developed anywhere else in the world.

“Relocation or culling don’t work, and there’s no point wasting anyone’s money on programs that don’t work.”