Abundance of Northwest Atlantic grey seals in Canadian waters
Keywords:grey seals, Canada, abundance, surveys
AbstractNorthwest Atlantic grey seals form a single stock, but for management purposes are often considered as 2 groups. The largest group whelps on Sable Island, 290 km east of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The second group referred to as ‘non-Sable Island’ or ‘Gulf’ animals whelps primarily on the pack ice in the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, with other smaller groups pupping on small islands in the southern Gulf and along the eastern shore of Nova Scotia. Estimates of pup production in this latter group have been determined using mark-recapture and aerial survey techniques. The most recent visual aerial surveys flown during January-February 1996, 1997 and 2000 in the southern Gulf of St Lawrence and along the Eastern Shore resulted in pup production estimates of 11,100 (SE = 1,300), 7,300 (SE = 800) and 6,100 (SE = 900) in 1996, 1997 and 2000 respectively after correcting for births and including counts of pups on small islands. Incorporating information on pup production, reproduction rates and removals into a population model indicates that the Gulf component increased from 15,500 (95% CI = 14,600-16,300) animals in 1970 to 62,700 (95% CI = 49,800-67,800) animals by 1996 and then declined to 22,300 (95% CI = 17,200-28,300) animals in 2000. On Sable Island the population has increased from 4,800 (95% CI = 4,700-4,900) animals in 1970 to 212,500 (95% CI = 159,600-276,200) in 2000. The total Northwest Atlantic grey seal population is estimated to number around 234,800 animals in 2000.
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