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European Tagged Seal Network

Get involved with our Citizen Science Program! 

We’re eager to collect data on seals sighted around the coast of Ireland. Specifically we’re interested in sightings of tagged, entangled or deceased seals, with clear photographs and details regarding their exact location (beach name, county, etc.) and any other relevant information, sent via email to: research@sealrescueireland.org
Whilst collecting data on seals is important for their conservation, we ask that you remain at a safe and respectful distance whilst doing so and avoid causing undue stress to these wild animals.
Specifics of what we’re looking for:
1. Tagged Seals: – Those with ID tags on their hind flippers which are used by numerous seal rehabilitation centres around Europe to help us keep track of individuals who have received care and been released. Photos should be taken of the tag ideally with the number visible, but as this isn’t always possible, at least documenting the colour of the tag and which flipper it’s on (left for male or right for female). General pictures of the seal’s face and body should also be taken.
2. Entangled Seals: – Those trapped in nets, ropes or other marine debris. Photos via email are appreciated for data collection. If a tangled seal sighted is on a beach in an accessible location call our rescue hotline as a rescue might be possible.
3. Deceased Seals: – We keep a detailed record of deceased seals found around the Irish coastline. Photos of the body, no matter what stage of decay are appreciated.
As always our 24/7 Seal Rescue Hotline is always available for calls regarding a distressed seal on 0871955393.

A GIS based spatial and temporal predictive model of grey seal pup stranding risk and variable identification
Kellie Heney (NUI Galway)

Abstract: Pupping season is a high-risk time for grey seal pups (Halichoerus grypus) in Ireland, with many stranding and subsequently succumbing to starvation, illness, or injury. The main objective of this study was to develop a predictive model with which to identify areas of high grey seal pup stranding likelihood to more effectively allocate the attention and resources of Seal Rescue Ireland’s Volunteer Stranding Network. Using Seal Rescue Ireland’s inhouse stranding data for the years 2013-2017, we identified and tested the influence of landscape and weather variables on grey seal pup stranding likelihood along the east and southeast coasts of Ireland. We performed a stepwise polynomial regression analysis to develop a presence/absence predictive model for stranding events. Stranding analysis indicated both a yearly increase in stranding events and a strong seasonality, with the majority of pre-weaning strandings occurring in October. Model selection indicated stranded seal presence was best predicted by mean gust, mean wave height, percent cover of developed beaches with fine sand to coarse sand, percent cover of rocky shores and/or cliffs made of hard rocks, percent cover of discontinuous urban fabric, percent cover of intertidal flats, and squared mean slope. Our model correctly identified 84.2% of the stranding events analysed in this study. Our results suggest that the identified weather and landscape variables were largely successful in describing the conditions that lead to these strandings, however additionally highlights the need to identify and fill the gaps in our current knowledge that may be acting negatively upon this success rate.

Common Seal Stress Analysis Using Heart Rate Monitor
Bronwyn Jeffers ( University of York)

Summary:

  1. Applying HR monitor causes minimal stress with maximum result.
  2. Different feeding methods cause different levels of stress. 
  3. Drain covers cause distress measures taken to reduce noise around kennels and ICU.

Wild Seal Identification Project with Cornwall Seal Group Research Trust.

Summary: “Photo ID is one of the most powerful research tools for studying seals. It is a non invasive technique revealing information about lots of different aspects of their biology and ecology and ultimately enabling the life stories of individual seals to be built up over time.”- CSRGT

We add all our seals to a seasonal identification catalogue, which increases probability of them being identified if they are spotted around the UK or Ireland. CSGRT have so far spotted one of our pups with a blue flipper tag, we look forward to developing our wild seal identification programme in the near future.

Photo credit: Gerhard Horn

Microplastics in Diet of Rehabilitation Seals
Grainne Keogh

Summary: “This study investigates the presence of microplastics in common seal (Phoca vitulina) scat collected from Seal Rescue Ireland and the presence of microplastics in the herring (Clupea herengus) fed to these seals to investigate the relationship between microplastics in the two species and their transfer across trophic levels. The scat samples were sieved and then chemically digested using potassium hydroxide to eliminate any biological material; similarly the herring gastrointestinal tracts were digested. The microplastics present were described, measured and quantified. Thirty-one of the 40 (77.5%) scat samples investigated contained at least one microplastic, with a total of 66 microplastics identified. 100% of the herring sampled (n=9) contained microplastics, with 73 microplastics identified. Microplastic fibres were more common than fragments, while a total of six colours of microplastics were identified. There was no statistical difference in the median length of microplastics found in the scat and herring samples. The findings suggest that trophic transfer is a potential pathway of microplastic ingestion in common seals but further studies are needed to confirm this.” – G. Keogh

Research previously conducted at SRI:

  1. Endocrine response to stress in captivity – Michael Zatrak et al. 
  2. Common seal analysis of successful rehabilitation procedures -Inês Costa
  3. Common seal analysis of stranding events and weather – Rhianna Kay
  4. What can rehab seals tell us about wild seal populations? – Lauren Himmelreich
  5. Investigating rehabilitation time for seals of various ailments – Alison Butterworth