Interactions between harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) and coastal fisheries along the Swedish west coast: an overview
AbstractThe conflicts between seals and fisheries along the Swedish west coast have intensified during the last decades, concurrently with the increase in the harbour seal population size. This study presents published information about interactions between harbour seals and fisheries in the Kattegat-Skagerrak, in addition to new information on the seal by-catch rate and an overview of fisheries suffering from seal damage. Several fisheries have reported interactions with seals, principally fisheries with fyke nets, gill nets and static gear. Development of mitigation measures has been focused on the eel fishery with fyke nets, in which the use of stronger net material has significantly decreased the damage frequency from seals and has yet maintained the catches at satisfactory levels. Under-water filming at fyke nets together with studies of the prey preferences of seals has shown individual specializations in certain foraging techniques. For example, eel may not be a common prey for harbour seals in general, but, it was chosen in preference to other species by seals attacking fyke nets. There is a lack of current data concerning the diet of harbour seals. Previous studies, based on material from the 1970s and 1980s, have shown that locally and seasonally abundant prey is preferred. Due to the non-existent information about the foodchoice, current assessments of the ecological role of harbour seals in Sweden cannot be evaluated.
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