Seals hauled out on land, rock or ice are sensitive to boats and human presence. Noises, smells and sights may elicit a reaction. Be aware of seal behavior that indicates a seal has been disturbed.
Such behaviors include, but are not limited to:
- an increase in alert or vigilance.
- head turning, change in posture from lying to erect.
- hurriedly moving away from the approaching vessel.
- open mouth threat displays (almost like a yawn).
- aggressive displays or bluff charges in your direction.
In short, any seal response other than a raised head should be avoided.
General guidelines for viewing hauled-out seals:
- Suggested minimum distances ashore are 5-10 meters/16-33 feet (25 meters/82 feet from jousting bulls).
- When viewing seals do not surround or separate them, especially mothers and pups. Stay on the side where they can see you.
- On beaches, avoid getting between seals and the sea.
- Try not to break their horizon or tower over hauled-out seals - stay low.
- Pups are often left alone when the mother is feeding. They are not abandoned and should be left alone and not touched.
- Keep commentary, conversation and engine noise to a minimum and be aware of your radio volume.
- If an individual or a herd moves towards the water or there is a hurried entry into the water by many individuals, you should retreat slowly and carefully.
- Be aware that fur seals and sea lions are highly mobile on land and might charge (and potentially bite) you if approached too closely.
- Be aware of animals in tussock grass areas. Ideally, staff member should lead, carrying walking stick or equivalent.
Source: IAATO- Asociación Internacional de operadores de turismo en la Antártida.