The conviction of a Blenheim man for clubbing to death 23 fur seals sends a strong message to animal abusers, Conservation Minister Nick Smith says.

Jemaal Peter Roy Large, 38, was convicted today of two charges in relation to the attack on native fur seals, including some newborn pups, three years ago.

The seals were beaten to death with a galvanised steel pipe at the Ohau Point seal colony, on the Kaikoura Coast, in late 2010. Other seals had injuries suggesting they were beaten.

Large's co-accused, Jason Trevor Godsiff, was sentenced to two years in prison in 2011 for his part in the crime.


Large had not disputed that he and Godsiff had killed the seals, but had pleaded not guilty to ill-treating them.

He was today convicted of two charges of willfully ill-treating animals under the Animal Welfare Act.

Dr Smith said the conviction sent a "strong signal that killing seals will not be tolerated".

"This was an obscene crime that would offend all New Zealanders who care for our native wildlife," he said. "This callous attack needed to be prosecuted to send a clear message that senseless and deliberate violence against animals will not be tolerated."

He said the men were charged under the Animal Welfare Act because it carries tougher penalties than the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

"This reflects the seriousness of the attack and the large number of seals killed," he added.

"The Government takes the protection of our marine mammals extremely seriously and is making changes to both the Animal Welfare Act and the Marine Mammals Protection Act to strengthen those protections, along with the penalties available for breaches."