Impact Of Colonial Sealing On Seal Stocks Around Australia, New Zealand And Subantarctic Islands Between 150 And 170 Degrees East

JK Ling
2002 Australian Mammalogy  
Ling JK, 2002. Impact of colonial sealing on seal stocks around Australia, New Zealand and subantarctic islands between 150 and 170 degrees East. Australian Mammalogy 24: 117-126. Details of southern elephant seal oil and fur seal and sea lion skin cargoes have been extracted from a large number of secondary sources dealing with Australian and New Zealand maritime history, which in turn referred to numerous primary sources of information. The data were collated and analysed for ten areas in the
more » ... or ten areas in the south-west Pacific region and published recently in two separate larger works. This review is a synthesis and analysis of the impact of the colonial sealing industry on seal stocks in the region, based on those papers, with some minor revisions and reference to works by other authors. Colonial sealing lasted from the late 18 th to the mid-19 th century and was followed by sporadic hunting until the late 1940s. Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) were hunted for their oil; and Australian fur seals (Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus), New Zealand fur seals (Arctocephalus forsteri), Australian sea lions (Neophoca cinerea) and New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) were targeted for their skins and some oil. At least 1,081 tons of elephant seal oil were shipped from King Is. between 1802 and 1819, while 8,380 tons were shipped from Macquarie Is. between 1810 and 1919. More than 1.4 million skins of both species of fur seals were harvested between 1792 and 1949, but only 4,000 Neophoca and 5,700 Phocarctos pelts are recorded as having been shipped by 1840. The Antipodes Islands yielded more than a quarter of the total fur seal skin harvest, and New Zealand and southern Australia each delivered a quarter of the total. Current numbers of the two species of fur seals combined are about a tenth of the crudely estimated size (1.5 million) of the original population. The exploited fur seals and sea lions were probably the same species as occur today at the original sealing localities, apart from Macquarie Is. where the identity of the exploited fur seals remains in doubt. There is some evidence that Maoris and Australian Aborigines hunted seals in pre-European times, resulting in reduced ranges and depleted stocks that were exploited later by colonial sealers.
doi:10.1071/am02117 fatcat:7qtqx34epze3fm7qfwyegsb6ge