Seal Bay is one of the most popular tourist destinations on Kangaroo Island. In order to protect the colony, visitors are only allowed on the beach by paying to go on a guided tour.
The sea lion population on Kangaroo Island had been exploited for economic purposes since the European colonisation. As sea lions were still being hunted as a source of shark bait post 1945, the Field Naturalists Section of the Royal Society of South Australia wrote to the South Australian Museum in 1953 requesting that sea lions be given protection along the southern coast of Kangaroo Island. The request was also supported by both the South Australian Ornithological Association and the fledgling tourism industry on Kangaroo Island. A recommendation was forwarded to the Department of Fisheries and Game for the proclamation of a sanctuary of 10 miles (16 km) in length. A closed area for sea-lions extending from Nobby Islet to Cape Gantheaume was subsequently proclaimed under the Animals and Birds Protection Act 1946 at Seal Beach on 28 October, 1954.
Organised tours commenced in 1955 as an initiative of a Kangaroo Island resident. As of 1969, six operators conveyed total of 7525 tourists to the reserve while ‘a large number of people visited the area with private and hire cars’. In 1974, the estimated annual visitation was between 25 000 and 30 000 people while in 1994 it was 70000 people and as of 2014, it is 110000.
In 1967, the reserve was re-dedicated as a fauna reserve under the Fauna Conservation Act 1964. along with the inclusion of two prohibited areas intended to protect the breeding area from interference. The reserve was also concurrently dedicated as a Fauna Conservation Reserve under the Crown Lands Act 1929. In 1971, an aquatic reserve in the waters adjoining the Seal Beach foreshore was proclaimed under the Fisheries Act 1971 . In 1972, the reserve was again re-dedicated as the Seal Bay Conservation Park under the newly enacted National Parks and Wildlife Act 1972.
^Robinson, A. C.; Canty, P., Mooney, T. and Rudduck, P. (1996). "South Australia's offshore islands". Australian Heritage Commission. p. 93. Retrieved 13 December 2013.Cite uses deprecated parameters (help)