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Sailors stunned by beauty of majestic seal

OCEAN VISITOR: Bundaberg Sailing Club members Dermot McNamus and Harry Steenhuison spotted this seal, believed to be a New Zealand Fur Seal at Burnett Heads on October 17. Photo Harry Steenhuison
OCEAN VISITOR: Bundaberg Sailing Club members Dermot McNamus and Harry Steenhuison spotted this seal, believed to be a New Zealand Fur Seal at Burnett Heads on October 17. Photo Harry Steenhuison Harry Steenhuison

IT WAS a normal day out on the water for Bundaberg Sailing Club members Dermot McNamus and Harry Steenhuison until they spotted a magnificent seal sunning itself in the water.

Mr McNamus said it was between 2.30 - 3pm last Saturday when they were on the safety boat at Burnett Heads watching the sailors before spotting a brown creature floating on the water.

 "We realised it was a seal. It was basking on top of the water," Mr McNamus said.

"We were about 10m from it and it was there for about 10 to 15 minutes before it swam away."

Mr McNamus said he went out on the water most weekends and it was the first time he had seen a seal in this region.

"It was the size of a labrador and didn't seem sick or anything like that," Mr McNamus said.

 A Department of Environment and Heritage Protection spokesperson said seals of various species, especially fur seals, were regularly seen along the south Queensland coast during the latter part of each year.

"These are mostly young seals originating from the breeding grounds in southern Australia or New Zealand," the spokesperson said.

"With increasing populations resulting from conservation efforts in southern Australia, there have been increasing numbers of young fur-seals visiting south Queensland in recent years."

The spokesperson said seals had been recorded as far north as the northern Great Barrier Reef off Cairns and isolated seals could be expected to come as far north as Hervey Bay each year.

"Our waters are within the normal dispersed feeding range for the species," the spokesperson said.

NewsMail believes a couple of seals were also spotted off Innes Park Beach a few weeks back.

The spokesperson said the most common seal visiting south Queensland is the New Zealand fur seal.

"Seals look docile, but they can move very quickly. They have very sharp teeth and they do bite people," the spokesperson said.

"Never approach a female with a pup or get between a seal and the water.

"They are hard to catch, and our best course of action is usually to leave them alone till they move on."

Seal populations in Australia are recovering after heavy hunting in the 1800s.

Australia-wide, the New Zealand fur seal population is estimated to be 58,000.

If you spot a seal and think it is sick or severely injured, you can report sick or stranded wildlife on 1300 264 625.

Topics:  burnett heads seals


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