A federal MP has called for Commonwealth-protected long-nosed fur seals to be culled in The Coorong on South Australia's south east.
South Australian-based Member for Barker Tony Pasin says rising numbers of the creatures have caused environmental and economic harm.
The animal, which was targeted by sealers many years ago, is protected under Commonwealth law, but there is no legislation covering them in The Coorong waters in SA.
The many seals that have bred in the area are now devastating the catches of some fishermen.
Speaking in Federal Parliament, Mr Pasin said he was supporting a call for the ethical and responsible culling of the seals, urging the state government to take action on the matter.
"The Coorong is an internationally recognised, Ramsar-listed wetland, a national park that, pre-COVID, welcomed thousands of domestic and international visitors each year," he said.
"While tourism is an integral part of the region and its economy, The Coorong has also been an important fishing ground for generations of local fishermen ... the livelihoods of these small family-run businesses have been devastated in recent years by increasing numbers of New Zealand fur seals, not native to the sheltered waters of the Coorong.
"In these waters, they are apex predators and, as such, are causing significant environmental and economic harm."
According to the South Australian Department for Environment and Water Wildlife, long-nosed fur seal numbers have been increasing in South Australia over the past few decades and the increase is believed to represent a recovery following the end of commercial hunting in the 1800s.
In July, following the unusual sighting of fur seals in the Murray River, the Department for Environment and Water Wildlife Management principal ecologist Karl Hillyard told The Standard the State Government did not support a cull.
"The long-nosed fur seal is an animal that is native to South Australia and it is recovering since it was heavily exploited since the time of white settlement," he said.
When asked if the animals were dangerous to the ecosystem, Mr Hillyard said "as a species that is recovering in numbers it's an unusual circumstance (for the ecosystem) but not dangerous.
"(A cull) remains something that is not supported by the Government of South Australia."
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In parliament, Mr Pasin detailed the plight of a local business impacted by the fur seals.
"Coorong Wild Seafood is one such business ... for three straight years, they've made a loss. From a payroll of around $250,000 a year, employing eight staff, they now employ two casuals," he said.
"These are jobs and economic activity that the region simply can't afford to lose.
"While the fur seal is protected in Commonwealth waters, there is no legislation protecting them in the waters of the Coorong, where they are not native.
"I call again on the South Australian state government to take action on this matter."
"Research and surveys and counts aren't enough. It's time to take real action to reduce the numbers and save our local fishermen.
At Goolwa, fisherman Darren Hoad has gone from setting 10 nets overnight and running them first thing in the morning to setting only two to four nets in the main channel of the Coorong because of the impact of seals.
"I have almost given up, as we cannot fish like we used to. I have shut the shop at Mundoo (on Hindmarsh island) because people would come and we would have no fish," Darren said.
"I only supply local businesses now. It is purely because of the impact seals are having in the Coorong.
"Over the last 18 months to two years it has just become impossible to run the nets.
"We used to set 10 nets overnight, but cannot do that now as the fish would be gone by morning. The seals would have a feast.
"Now I run two to four nets and as soon as the seals come we have to move on.
"We have to watch the nets the whole time they are in the water and it would be a matter of minutes before the seals would come. The seals would be on top of you straight away."
State MP, Member for Hammond Adrian Pederick, whose electorate includes the Coorong, said something must be done about the number of seals.
"I've been saying we need and over abundant species management in regards to these fur seals for over a decade now," he said.
"And I still think we need that management ... I think the species has recovered pretty well, on my rough estimations there is probably up to 140,000 across the board, not just the Coorong."
"I think with the impact that has been happening for years now in the lakes and Coorong, I think as part of an over abundant species management plan there should be a cull ... that might be 30 per annum, it might be 300 but it is hardly going to touch the sides of the total amount of seals over all, out to sea."
"I think the issue is about educating the public, I think it should be the same as how we deal with kangaroos and other species that are over-populated.
"It's about an education process to get the public supporting a cull as part of an over abundant native species management plan because they do cause major problems and have done with fishermen for over a decade now."