Posted inStory / Fiji

Fur seal spotted on Beqa Island

NZ Marine scientists confirm fur seal found 2000m away on Beqa Island in Fiji are from NZ

Fiji’s Ministry of Fisheries is advising villagers in Beqa to refrain from harming the seal that has been found in Rukua Village. 

The recent sightings of the seal which has gone viral on social media platforms have indeed come as a surprise as it has travelled a long way away from its natural habitat.

Marine scientists at the Massey University in New Zealand have confirmed through the pictures sent to them by the Ministry, that the mammal is commonly known as Australasian fur seal, South Australian fur seal, New Zealand fur seal, Antipodean fur seal, or long-nosed fur seal (Arctocephalus forsteri ) and is a species of fur seal found mainly around southern Australia and New Zealand. Other experts have confirmed that the sighted seal is a sub-adult male identified as a New Zealand fur seal.

Director of Fisheries, Neomai Ravitu says that experts have suggested that Fur Seals are known to go astray and end up in far-fetched locations for various reasons. 

“It could have been swept in by currents as they sometimes like to explore and end up in strange places as they’re also a little adventurous,” said Ravitu.

“It is recommended that we have a ‘hands off’ approach to seals. They are capable and resilient and given time and space, they usually find their way home,” said Ravitu.

Experts have further recommended that people keep 20 metres away from seals and not to get between them and the sea.

The Project Manager for the Beqa Lagoon Initiative under the Pacific Blue Foundation, Sefano Katz is advising islanders not to feed the seal as they can become reliant on humans for food. 

“Seals are wild animals and will defend themselves if they feel threatened. Adult seals can move surprisingly quickly on land. While they can look harmless, seals can inflict serious injuries to dogs or people and can carry infectious diseases” said  Katz.

The species can “porpoise” out of the water when travelling quickly at sea. They can dive deeper and longer than any other fur seal. Females can dive for about 9 minutes and to a depth of about 312 metres and can dive deeper and longer in autumn and winter. Males can dive for about 15 minutes to a depth of about 380 metres. On average, the species typically only dives for 1–2 minutes. When they dive for food they dive deeper during the day but shallower at night, because during the day their prey typically migrates to deeper depths and migrates back up during the night.

Their diet includes cephalopods, fish, and birds. Octopus and arrow squid make up most of their cephalopod diet. Individuals located near their southern range limit have been known to eat penguins as part of their diet.

Seals are very good swimmers and weaned pups will sometimes travel great distances. On land, seals have been found in unusual places such as backyards, drains and streets.

Despite these odd appearances, seals are best left alone with no human intervention.

This feature was published by the Fijian Government on 31 August 2021, reposted via PACNEWS.

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