Fur seals and fisheries in Tasmania: an integrated case study of human-wildlife conflict and coexistence
Cummings, CR and Lea, MA and Lyle, JM, Fur seals and fisheries in Tasmania: an integrated case study of human-wildlife conflict and coexistence, Biological Conservation pp. 1-11. ISSN 0006-3207 (2019) [Refereed Article]
Cultivating more harmonious ways of interacting with top predators is a major challenge in sustainably managing and developing fisheries. In-depth, interdisciplinary case studies represent important tools for highlighting emergent properties in complex human-predator relationships. In this study we integrate original social research with detailed secondary historic and natural-scientific information on a long-standing case of human-wildlife conflict: the relationship between fur seals and fisheries in Tasmania. Stakeholders were targeted and surveyed via anonymous questionnaire about their experiences and perceptions of seal-fishery interactions and seals in the ecosystem. The most frequently cited outcomes of interactions for both commercial and recreational fishers were damaged gear, lost catch, and damaged catch. Most fishers indicated that they believed population-level controlled culling or targeted removal of problem individuals would be the most effective strategies to manage and reduce interactions. In contrast, the general public and resource/environmental managers indicated strong preferences for non-lethal forms of management, with culling the lowest ranked strategy in terms of perceived effectiveness. Perceptions of ongoing rapid population increase evident in fishing sub-groups contrast with available seal population data. Such discrepancy suggests that reported increasing seal-fishery interactions may be more reflective of behavioural change, with seals becoming habituated to certain fishing activities. Areas of promise identified for future research and management focus on: technical mitigation to minimise direct interactions, building tolerance in fishing communities, and targeted ecological research to disentangle the effects of pinniped abundance, distribution (including seasonal population flux between breeding regions), and habituation on interactions. Documenting the contemporary status of this relationship is an integral step in managing such conflicts.