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The seal diet

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Researchers from the University of St Andrews’ Scottish Oceans Institute will arrive in Orkney today to launch a year-long survey of the Scottish coastline to detail the diet of Scotland’s harbour seals.

Despite conservation efforts, surveys have shown widespread declines of harbour seals around the UK, with the most severe declines around the Northern Isles. It is hoped that this study will help to understand the cause of this drop.

The research team today begin their study with a trip to Orkney to collect seal-faeces samples which can then be analysed to determine what and how much seals eat.

The sampling will allow the research team to identify species, regional and temporal differences in diet.

Lindsay Wilson of the Sea Mammal Research Unit, who will lead the research, said:

“There have been dramatic declines in the number of harbour seals in Scotland over the last 8 years, particularly in Orkney and Shetland.

“This study will result in the first Scotland-wide assessment of harbour seal diet and presents a valuable opportunity to assess diet competition between grey and harbour seals at the same time.”

The Scottish Oceans Institute opened at the University of St Andrews in last year, bringing together over 300 staff to help to lead research of Scotland’s oceans, assess the effects of climate change, monitor marine life and advise Government policy.

The project is funded by the Scottish Government.

Lindsay Wilson can be contacted on 01334 462 679 or email ljw33@st-andrews.ac.uk.

Issued by the University of St Andrews

Contact: Emma Shea, Communications Officer on 01334 462 167 or email Emma.Shea@st-andrews.ac.uk.

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