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

Authors

  • Louise Cunningham,

    Corresponding author
    1. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, Scotland, UK
    2. Science Advice and Information Division, The Scottish Government, Edinburgh, EH6 6QQ, Scotland, UK
    • Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, Scotland, UK
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  • John M. Baxter,

    1. Scottish Natural Heritage, Silvan House, 3rd Floor East, 231 Corstorphine Road, Edinburgh EH12 7AT, Scotland, UK
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  • Ian L. Boyd,

    1. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, Scotland, UK
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  • Callan D. Duck,

    1. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, Scotland, UK
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  • Mike Lonergan,

    1. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, Scotland, UK
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  • Simon E. Moss,

    1. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, Scotland, UK
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  • Bernie McConnell

    1. Sea Mammal Research Unit, Gatty Marine Laboratory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife, KY16 8LB, Scotland, UK
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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, as 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 © 2008 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.

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