Sea creature spotted far from home
A LEOPARD seal has been spotted far from home basking on a beach on the NSW North Coast.
Iluka fisherman Tye Porter was returning from fishing on the nearby headland on Wednesday when he saw what he thought was a washed up dolphin at Frasers Beach, north of Iluka Bluff.
"It turned out to be a fully mature leopard seal," Mr Porter said.
"I've seen plenty of fur seals, but never a leopard."
Leopard seals are solitary animals whose natural habitat is Antarctic pack ice, but are known to have been found as far north as the NSW Mid North Coast.
Of the 10 seal species found in Australian waters, only the Australian sea lion and the Australian and New Zealand fur seals typically occur on the Australian mainland. The others, including the threatened leopard seal and southern elephant seal are predominantly found in Australia's Antarctic Territories.
Leopard seals are known to kill people.
"The dentures on him, I'd hate to get bit by him. It would match every bit of a shark," Mr Porter said.
"He's a big boy, probably a good three metres in length."
Mr Porter said he alerted National Parks and Wildlife Service of the sighting.
"If kids get too close he could swing around," Mr Porter said.
"He doesn't appear real active at a distance, but if you get too close he's full of beans, so I'm not sure if he's a bit crook or up on the beach having a spell."
A NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment spokesperson confirmed the animal was a leopard seal.
"Seals are increasingly being seen along the NSW coastline and can still be quite a novelty for the public the further north you go. This naturally draws crowds and public interest," the spokesperson said.
"People mistakenly think they are in trouble when they haul out along the coast, but the truth is most of these animals are simply resting. They only occasionally require veterinary assistance in these situations.
"They might look fairly docile lying on a beach but they can move faster than you can if they feel threatened.
"People must remember that the law states you must keep at least 40 metres away from adults and 80 metres away from a pup.
"They are wild animals and so they can be dangerous if you get too close."
"Mostly they just want to rest at a location for a few days and they need this so please leave them alone."
As part of stage one implementation of the Marine Estate Management Strategy all National Parks and Wilidlife Service coastal locations have received new signage to improve and support the safety of both the seal and spectators. The Marine Estate Management Strategy (2018-2028) aims to improve the health of the state's oceans, wetlands, coastline and coastal lakes and lagoons.
If you see a seal in distress or injured report them to the NPWS on 13000 PARKS or ORRCA 9415 3333.
"But give them space."