Delicate rescue of fur seal speared with big fishing hook
THE eagle eye of crew on board an eco-tourism vessel has helped save an Australian fur seal with a fishing gaff lodged in its muzzle from suffering ongoing distress.
The Department of Primary Industries, Parks, Water and Environment is now investigating the incident in which a 200kg adult male seal was found with a hook through its face - just missing its eye.
Staff from the department's Marine Conservation Program on Wednesday successfully removed the hook from the seal's face after Pennicott Wilderness Journeys reported the location of the injured seal.
The distressed animal was first spotted near Cape Hauy on Tuesday afternoon and then again on Wednesday near a known seal hang out at Munro Bight.
Marine Conservation Program staff and a wildlife ranger travelled to the site to determine if the hook could be removed safely.
"We could see the gaff hook attached to the seal's muzzle; however the seal was settled and relaxed," wildlife biologist Sam Thalmann said.
"Once sedated, our assessment showed the seal's eye was intact and the penetration was superficial through the upper nose, so we were able to remove the hook.
"It's tricky to sedate such a large seal so this was a great outcome for the seal and our marine conservation team.
"The seal was in good condition despite its injury and soon slipped back into the water and swam away.
"Thanks must also go to the team at Pennicott Wilderness Journeys for reporting the injured seal and assisting the marine conservation team by checking haul-outs to help identify the seal's location."
Seals are a wholly protected species and deliberate interference with protected species is illegal.
"Most fishers are aware that seals will follow a fish close to a boat and take the catch so we encourage all fishers to be responsible when fishing as well as when cleaning and disposing of fish waste and equipment," Mr Thalmann said.
"Disposing of fish carcasses near boat ramps and inshore waters could encourage negative behaviours in wildlife which could become problematic.
"When a seal chooses to interact with fishing activities, fishers should also be mindful that the ocean is a seal's habitat."
The program said reports from the public were integral to being able to help injured marine wildlife.
Sightings can be reported to the Whale Hotline (0427 WHALES).
Originally published as Delicate rescue of fur seal speared with big fishing hook