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State to Pull Out of Seal Program

TASMANIA - Salmon farms are planning to run their own seal relocation program. The State Government has decided to pull out of the scheme, which traps seals and trucks them north, usually to North-West Coast beaches.

The seals usually return to the southern fish pens, making the program never-ending.

The Department of Primary Industries and Water said moving seals was only one part of a strategy to manage seals that pester marine farms, taking and disturbing penned fish.

"The relocation of problem seals is one part of a broader program of management that also includes deterrents to modify seal behaviour and increased fortification of salmon farms," said DPIW wildlife manager Gary Davies.

Fish farms pay fees for the relocations. DPIW has used up to 10 casual staff moving 1000 seals a year since the early 1990s.

Tasmanian Salmonid Growers Association executive officer Pheroze Jungalwalla said the industry was hoping to be able to take over the program by the end of February.

"We are trying to put up an alternative service, whether the industry does it itself or contracts it out," he said.

Mr Davies said seal relocation was considered an important but interim measure.

"As new methods of managing seal interactions are developed and trialled, the reliance on seal relocations has decreased," he said. "The relocation program will phase out completely over the next two years. Until then, the industry will be able to undertake relocations in specific circumstances."

Tasmanian Conservation Trust chief executive officer Christian Bell said DPIW should maintain monitoring to ensure the program was carried out properly.

Source: Mercury

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