Seals the new normal for Bay of Plenty

Pete Huggins —  04/07/2013

Fancy enjoying a wilderness wildlife experience 500 metres from your 5-star accommodation? Want to see marine mammals up close whilst standing on dry land sipping a coffee? Then Mount Maunganui is the winter destination for you!

Okay, maybe not quite wilderness, but the Bay of Plenty’s renowned summer party town is fast becoming a winter wildlife hotspot due to the recovery of fur seal populations in the area.

A fur seal pup relaxing at Mount Maunganui. Credit: Joel Ford, Bay of Plenty Times.

A fur seal pup relaxing at Mount Maunganui
Credit: Joel Ford, Bay of Plenty Times.

Visiting fur seals are expected to make a major ‘splash’ in coastal communities along the Bay of Plenty this winter, including in New Zealand’s fifth largest city, Tauranga, and further up the coast in Whakatane. Together with resident little blue penguins, New Zealand fur seals should be coming ashore to rest, having travelled from as far south as Dunedin.

Last year we witnessed spectacular shenanigans like this seal caught climbing onto paddle boats; an early morning visit to the Tauranga waterfront; neighbourly seals tapping on suburban patio windows; and of course the seal that went global after curling up on someone’s couch for the night.

Seals don’t always get good press; and it’s true that they smell, bite and carry diseases—so it’s important to keep your distance.

Some communities are also worried that seals will compete with us for seafood, although evidence suggests they feed mainly on anchovy and lantern fish, which aren’t so popular with humans.

Close up photo of a NZ fur seal face.

New Zealand fur seal up close and personal

On the plus side, seals are a sign of a healthy environment. Historically, they lived all around New Zealand, so it stands to reason that if we continue to look after our place they will return to more of our holiday spots in the future. Next stop, Takapuna Beach?

Visit the DOC website find out more about fur seals and conservation.

Pete Huggins


Based in Tauranga, I work for DOC and do public engagement work such as working bees, volunteer training days, education, media and publications. Our patch includes the Kaimai ranges and all the historic mining and logging remains there, a large remnant wetland on the Kaituna River, and we also help look after several offshore islands including Tuhua / Mayor Island. My top local spot is the Karangahake Gorge with all the cool mining tunnels and a beautiful scenic river. Go explore it!

One response to Seals the new normal for Bay of Plenty

    Frances Hall 09/07/2013 at 9:49 pm

    They are enjoyed at Sandspit, near Warkworth too.
    I’d love to be able to send you some photos of our seals-August 2012.
    Frances Hall