Interactions between Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus) and the Southern Squid Jig Fishery (SSJF) were investigated in April–May 2002. Details on the number of seals present, distance from the vessel, age and gender, and their behaviour were recorded using scan sampling techniques over 26 nights from eight vessels operating out of Portland and Port Fairy on the southwest coast of Victoria. Seals were observed on all nights but none were recorded in 30% of all (777) scan observations. Of the seals attending vessels at any one time (1.89 ± 0.24), 67% were involved in activities unrelated to jigging operations with the most common behaviour category being resting/grooming. Only 3.6% of observations involved seals targeting squid caught on jig lures whereas a further 29% were of foraging on squid within 40 m of the vessel. Damage to fishing gear attributable to seals was recorded on only three occasions. There was no evidence of negative impacts on seals from vessel operations. The majority of seals foraging on squid around vessels were adult females (71%) with the remainder being almost exclusively juvenile males. The current level of interactions between Australian fur seals and vessels in the SSJF appears minor.
Field of Research
060205 Marine and Estuarine Ecology (incl Marine Ichthyology)