DISPERSAL and BYCATCH MORTALITY IN GRAY, HALICHOERUS GRYPUS, AND HARBOR, PHOCA VITULINA, SEALS TAGGED AT THE NORWEGIAN COAST

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Abstract

Between 1975 and 1998, 3,571 gray and 630 harbor seal pups were tagged along the Norwegian coast, and 259 (7%) gray and 80 (13%) harbor seal tags were returned. Incidental mortality, mainly in bottom-set nets, accounted for the majority of deaths (79% in gray and 48% in harbor seals, respectively). Seals were most vulnerable to incidental mortality in fishing gear during the first three months after birth, but high incidental mortality prevailed during the first 8–10 mo. Gray seals dispersed more widely (mean distance: 120 km) than harbor seals (mean distance: 69 km). Both species dispersed most widely during the two first months after tagging. The maximum distance moved was 739 km for gray and 463 km for harbor seals. Strong fidelity for their place of birth was observed in adult gray seals during breeding season. No significant difference in incidental mortality was detected between the areas of tagging. However, for 37 harbor seals tagged in a 724 km nature reserve no returns were reported.

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