Leopard seal makes Auckland's Westhaven Marina home

The seal (Newshub.)
The seal (Newshub.)

The biggest marina in the Southern Hemisphere has had to find a berth for an unexpected guest.

A 300-kilogram Antarctic leopard seal has moved into Auckland's Westhaven Marina and made itself comfortable.

The Department of Conservation (DOC) says it's a world first. And while it has some boaties concerned, DOC says the public has nothing to fear.

The seal should be making its life on Antarctic ice. However, for more than a year, her home has been a waterfront berth in the City of Seals.

"She seems to be quite placid, but also quite curious. So when people do come within 20 metres of her, you could expect a reaction, because she is a wild animal," says DOC marine ranger Krista Hupman.

"When people keep their distance, we find that she's quite happy to be left alone."

She's so happy she's been seen all over Auckland since September last year.

Regular sightings of leopard seals far into the Waitemata Harbour are very unusual, but sightings of this seal aren't rare at all.

In fact, it's such a regular visitor in Auckland waters, the local iwi has given it a name - Owha.

"The interesting thing about this seal is that she's stayed for such a long period," says Ms Hupman.

"I would say that this is a world first."

The new resident has concerned some boaties, and DOC has considered moving the seal.

"To move this leopard seal would require sedation, and when leopard seals go under sedation they can go into what we call a dive reflex," says Ms Hupman.

"They think they're on a deep dive, and they can stop breathing."

So instead, DOC is tracking Owha's movements and behaviour, and calling on the public to report any sightings via its Hector's dolphin app.

Further sightings sure to be in steady supply if Auckland's biggest tourist extends her stay.