Harbour seal movements and haul-out patterns: implications for monitoring and management

Louise Cunningham, John M. Baxter, Ian Lamont Boyd, Callan D. Duck, Mike Lonergan, Simon E. Moss, Bernie McConnell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

1. Compliance with conservation legislation requires knowledge on the behaviour, abundance and distribution of protected species. Seal life history is characterized by a combination of marine foraging and a requirement to haul out on a solid substrate for reproduction and moulting. Thus understanding the use of haul out sites, where seals are Counted, its well as their at-sea movements is crucial for designing effective monitoring and management plans.

2. This study used satellite transmitters deployed on 24 harbour seals in western Scotland to examine movements and haul-out patterns.

3. The proportion of time harbour seals spent hauled Out (daily means of between 11 and 27%) varied spatially, temporally and according to sex. The mean haul-out duration was 5 h, with a maximum of over 24 h.

4. Patterns of movement were observed at two geographical scales; while some seals travelled over 100 km, 50% of trips were within 25 km of a haul-out site. These patterns are important for the identification of a marine component to designated protected areas for the species.

5. On average seals returned to the haul-out. sites they last used during 40% of trips, indicating a degree of site fidelity, though there was wide variation between different haul-out sites (range 0% to > 75%).

6. Low fidelity haul-out sites could form a network of land-based protected areas, while high fidelity sites might form appropriate management units. Copyright (c) 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)398-407
Number of pages10
JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
Volume19
Issue number4
Early online date4 Nov 2008
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2009

Keywords

  • Phoca vitulina
  • harbour seal
  • Scotland
  • SRDLs
  • site-fidelity
  • conservation
  • protected areas
  • satellite telemetry
  • critical habitat
  • PHOCA-VITULINA-RICHARDSI
  • PRINCE-WILLIAM-SOUND
  • COMMON SEALS
  • MORAY FIRTH
  • GRAY SEALS
  • NORTHEAST SCOTLAND
  • HALICHOERUS-GRYPUS
  • FORAGING ACTIVITY
  • BREEDING-SEASON
  • POPULATION-SIZE

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