Folklore and chimerical numbers: review of a millenium of interaction between fur seals and humans in the New Zealand region
Lalas, C and Bradshaw, CJA, Folklore and chimerical numbers: review of a millenium of interaction between fur seals and humans in the New Zealand region, New Zealand Journal of Marine and Freshwater Research, 35, (3) pp. 477-497. ISSN 0028-8330 (2001) [Refereed Article]
The increase in numbers and range expansion of New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri Lesson) in the New Zealand region has prompted many people to comment on their effects on the marine and coastal environments. Overall there are anomalies in the data describing the distribution and abundance of fur seals in the New Zealand region, and there is a need for a better understanding of the interactions with humans and the impacts on the New Zealand environment. The distribution resulting from the present pattern of re-colonisation differs from the perception of their distribution before decimation by humans. We hypothesise that the pristine distribution was temperate rather than subantarctic. Previously published records which have documented changes in the abundance and distribution of the species are shown to be wanting. The most controversial management issue is interaction with commercial fisheries where we conclude that neither of the extreme options, culling of seals nor closure of some fishing grounds, is justified. Other issues addressed include tourism, te tikanga Maori o mahinga kai (the customary use of wildlife by Maori), and impact of fur seals on the coastal environment. This species offers a rare and exciting opportunity to test the theoretical processes of population expansion that can be investigated as a natural experiment. We suggest that the current management policy should remain unchanged until the current paucity of information on the degree of interaction between fur seals and humans has been addressed.