Department of Conservation (DOC) Principal Compliance Officer Jeff Hall says DOC is working with police in investigating a line of inquiry arising from information it recently received. Jeff Hall says the new information is a solid lead now being pursued – but DOC still needs more help from the public.
“We are grateful for the information we’ve received and while that’s encouraging, we can’t be certain of the outcome at this stage. We continue to appeal for people to come forward if they have information about the seals’ deaths, however insignificant they think it may be.
“Information from the public has always been important to identifying whoever was responsible for killing at least eight seals.”
Jeff Hall says DOC staff believe other people in the community can corroborate the recent information received – and further information from residents could prove vital.
“DOC and Te Rūnanga o Kaikōura are deeply concerned about the callous killing of legally protected native fur seals and we hope with public help we will be able to identify and prosecute those responsible and hold them to account,” says Jeff Hall.
The Marine Mammals Protection Act includes a clause limiting the timeframe in which someone can be charged to one year from the date of the offence. Jeff Hall says DOC is keen to see a charge laid before time runs out.
The penalties for harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a marine mammal under the Marine Mammals Protection Act 1978 are up to two years’ imprisonment or a fine of up to $250,000.
Anyone who has information is asked to contact the DOC 24-hour number 0800 DOC HOT (0800 36 24 68) or Kaikōura Police via 105 and quote file number 211103/1981. Alternatively, information can be provided anonymously through Crime Stoppers on 0800 555 111.
DOC was first alerted to dead seals at Ōhau Point on Labour Day, 25 October. Six dead seals were found there and the other 13 seals were found at two sites in the Half Moon Bay area.
A Massey University pathologist determined from necropsies that eight adult seals died from being shot. It is believed at least two firearms of different calibres were used to shoot the seals and it’s thought more than one person may have shot them.
The cause of death of the other 11 seals wasn’t able to be determined but their deaths are being treated as suspicious.