About Australian sea lions

Australian sea lions are fascinating creatures and one of the rarest species in the world. The world population is estimated at around 14,700. Of these, 85 percent live in South Australia and the other 15 percent in Western Australia.

Seal Bay supports the third largest colony of Australian sea lions with a population of around 1,000 - around five percent of the world's total.

Australian sea lions are the only seal species with a breeding cycle that varies from year to year with a gap between cycles of almost 18 months. Interestingly, breeding seasons differ from colony to colony.

The Australian Sea lion was nearly hunted to extinction in the 19th century. We can count ourselves lucky that places like Seal Bay exist today. 

A well travelled animal

Australian sea lions feed opportunistically and take a wide variety of prey - particularly squid, octopus, scale fish and crustaceans. Adult females at Seal Bay will travel to sea and away from their pups for three days at a time, returning ashore to feed pups and rest between trips.

Adult male Australian sea lions have been spotted up to 100 kilometres south of the island.

Diving belles

Australian sea lions at Seal Bay have been recorded at depths of 275 metres, or 23 times atmospheric pressure, and can stay under water for up to 12 minutes.

They differ from true seals because they have external ears and propel themselves through the water with their front flippers. Remarkably, an Australian sea lion will dive under water anywhere up to 1,200 times over a three day trip, rarely resting.

Life span

Australian sea lions have a life span of between 17 and 25 years.

Males mature between eight and nine years of age, and females between four and six. The long period between birth and reaching maturity is one of the reasons for the slow population growth of the Australian sea lion.

Research projects

For over 25 years the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources has partnered with government organisations such as the South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI), Australian Universities and the Nature Foundation to track the population of Australian Sea Lions at Seal Bay and to try and determine why the population is in decline. 

This partnership provides valuable information about the health of the population of Australian sea lions at Seal Bay and underpins the broader management of the site to ensure it remains a sustainable tourism destination.