More grey seals counted

Researchers of Wageningen Marine Research counted almost twenty per cent more grey seals than last year.

Researchers of Wageningen Marine Research count the number of seals in the Dutch Wadden Sea in April of each year. In December they count the number of pups, and in April again because shedding brings the seals ashore, which makes them easier to count from the air. This year, the researchers counted 5687 seals, a twenty per cent increase from the 4750 counted a year earlier.

Is the grey seal on the increase?

Sophie Brasseur feels it is too early for so bold a statement. She states that the sunny weather in April could also have caused more seals to seek out the sandbanks. ‘In bad weather, seals go out to sea, which makes counting them more difficult.’ Moreover, the COVID-19 lockdown may have played a part. ‘There was less marine traffic, and thus, fewer disturbances, allowing the seals to remain on the sandbanks and relax.’

Brasseur concludes by stating that seals may also have come to the Netherlands from England and Scotland. ‘Perhaps due to the weather, disturbances at sea or migrating fish. We can’t tell local seals from seals that travelled from the United Kingdom. This would require us to equip them with trackers.’

Next year, there will be a new count. This may reveal whether the increased number of grey seals is a trend, Brasseur says.

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