Protection & Laws


Leopard seals are protected under the New Zealand Marine Mammals Protection Act (1978).

It is an offence under the MMPA to disturb, harass, harm, injure or kill any seal.  A dog owner whose dog attacks a seal could face prosecution.

Anyone charged under the MMPA with harassing, disturbing, injuring or killing a seal faces a maximum penalty of two years’ imprisonment or a fine to a maximum of $250,000.

Dog owners, whose dog attacks a seal, could face prosecution.

The key to watching leopard seals safely is;

1.  Keep your distance.  Stay at least 20 metres away and don’t startle the animal.  (However, if you do find yourself closer than 20 metres from her, stay calm and quietly move away).

2.  Avoid getting between any seal and the water.

3.  Keep children and dogs away from seals and under control.

4.  NEVER attempt to feed leopard seals.

What NOT to do. This person harassed a sleeping leopard seal and disturbed it enough that she opened her mouth at him to warn him to back off. He was less than 3m from the seal and was reported to the Department of Conservation by concerned onlookers. If you see someone harassing any seal, please explain to them that the animals are protected. If they do not respond appropriately, please report their behaviour.