Management of seal tourism in New Zealand – tourism and the New Zealand fur seal in the Bay of Plenty

Cowling, Mary (2013) Management of seal tourism in New Zealand – tourism and the New Zealand fur seal in the Bay of Plenty. Research Master thesis, Victoria University.


Pinniped (seal, sea lion and walrus) tourism is an expanding industry, popularized due to the playful and interactive nature of seals. The industry can have positive outcomes for pinnipeds, through education and the promotion of conservation issues, or negative outcomes, such as causing the animals to abandon sites. The impact of tourism on pinnipeds needs to be minimal for the industry to be considered sustainable. Within New Zealand, pinniped tourism principally targets the New Zealand fur seal (Arctophoca australis forsteri), a recovering species which is increasing in number around New Zealand’s coast as it recolonizes parts of its former range. One of these regions is the Bay of Plenty, in New Zealand’s North Island, where tour operators take customers to view and swim with the seals. This study investigated human-seal interactions during both seal viewing and seal-swim activities, primarily in the Whakatane region of the Bay of Plenty. The major aim of this study was to evaluate the effects of tourism on the seals and to assess and make recommendations for the sustainability of the industry. It also aimed to determine whether a range of variables influenced seal response during tourism activities, including: location, colony size, sex/age classes, time of day, duration of stay, distance, month and stage in the breeding season. Seals-swims were usually observed from on board a licenced marine mammal tour vessel (n = 16 seal-swims), and controlled approaches were conducted from on board an independent research vessel (n = 68 surveys). Video footage of seals in the absence of vessels was taken from a land vantage point to collect control seal behavioural data (n = 15 surveys).

Additional Information

Master of Science

Item type Thesis (Research Master thesis)
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 0502 Environmental Science and Management
Historical > FOR Classification > 1506 Tourism
Current > Division/Research > College of Science and Engineering
Keywords disturbance, swim-with-seals industry, swimming, sustainability, ecotourism, pinniped, compliance, sustainable environmental management, seal responses, behaviour, interactions, regulations, compliance, seals, tour operators, boats, environmental impact, Bay of Plenty, New Zealand
Download/View statistics View download statistics for this item

Search Google Scholar

Repository staff login