Interesting new paper on grey seal habitat use from scientists at the University of La Rochelle, the University of Glasgow and our own colleagues at SMRU. The paper investigates the habitat selection of grey seals within the French national marine park in the Iroise Sea.
There are only 3 grey seal colonies in France and one of these is located in the Iroise Sea marine park. Here, grey seals haul out all year round on tidal rocks and breed and moult on the small islands in the park. The population of grey seals is doing well and has been increasing over the last 20 years. This study involved tagging 19 grey seals and modelling the telemetry data alongside bathymetry, tidal current and sediment data to investigate seal habitat preferences within the marine park.
The telemetry data showed that the tagged seals spent two thirds of their time within the marine park, with seals preferring to travel only short distances from their haul outs and spending most of their time in in either shallow or very deep waters (<50m or >150m). The authors considered that these areas are known to be abundant in wrasse, which is the grey seal main prey species in the area.
Why is this useful to know? It allows us to identify where grey seal habitat overlaps with human activities such as fishing and leisure activities which will help inform the management of the marine park by maintaining these important habitats.
For more information, please see the full paper here.
Fun Facts: Did you know that ~38% of the world’s grey seals breed in the UK? The most recent UK grey seal population estimate is 112,300 seals! Of these, 88% of them breed at colonies in Scotland – mostly in the Hebrides and Orkney.
Check out some of SMRU Consulting’s projects that involved seal telemetry (in collaboration with SMRU):
- Telemetry to describe the abundance and distribution of seals in the Firths of Forth and Tay
- Modelling seal telemetry data to predict seal density for MORL and BOWL
- Telemetry data to derive seal abundance estimates at Triton Knoll R2 Wind Farm
- Seal tagging studies at the world’s first large scale commercial tidal stream generator SeaGen