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Animal onlookers seal fate of beach access

Animal onlookers seal fate of beach access

A Victorian beach has been closed to the public after a massive elephant seal named Henry decided to pull up stumps for a rest.

A crowd of keen onlookers flocked to get a glance at the seal after it was filmed at Point Lonsdale on the Bellarine Peninsula on Friday.

It has since swam across to Camerons Bight Beach at Blairgowrie on the Mornington Peninsula, where it was still resting on Tuesday.

After onlookers got “dangerously close” to the seal, the beach and car park was closed to the public on Tuesday, with the state’s Conservation Regulator citing escalating community interest as threatening the animal’s welfare.

The regulator decided to close the beach in conjunction with the WhiteCliffs to Camerons Bight Foreshore Reserve Committee of Management.

The beach will remain closed for the foreseeable future, the regulator said.

“We know it’s exciting to see such large and unique animals on our beaches, but a photo or video opportunity is not worth risking your’s or a seal’s safety,” chief regulator Kate Gavens said on Monday

“We were disappointed to see people get so close to the elephant seal at Point Lonsdale last week and we don’t want to see repeat behaviour in Blairgowrie or with any other seals resting on beaches along the coast.”

The regulator’s authorised officers along with foreshore reserve rangers will monitor and patrol the beach to ensure people respected the closures, indicated by signs and fenced-off areas.

Elephant seals can become defensive if they are approached by humans or animals and people must stay at least 30m away from them.

If beachgoers have a dog, they have to stay at least 50m away from seals.

People who injure, disturb, chase or herd protected wildlife can be fined up to almost $3700.

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