SEALS UPDATE  AUTUMN 1999  (from Pinniped News)

Killer Whales lunch on seals in the U.K. - Killer whales hunting for prey off the coast of Cornwall in south west England may be reducing Grey seal (Halichoerus grypus) numbers there, according to Seaquest South West, the marine arm of the Devon and Cornwall Wildlife Trusts. It is believed that the whales, preying on seals and other marine animals, are becoming more common off the Cornish coast during the warmer weather, a pod of three orcas having appeared within the last two years. For more information, contact Stephen Westcott at Seaquest South West, Tel: +44-(0)1872-273939. At the end of July a pod of seven killer whales was also observed preying on a Grey seal in Shetland. (Sources: Aberdeen Press & Journal; Essex County News).

Orange Seals observed in Isle of Skye - It was reported in July that people on the Scottish island of Skye had observed two brightly coloured orange harbour seals (Phoca vitulina vitulina). One photographer on the island said that on first sight the seals looked like two buoys bobbing in the water and described them as "staggeringly orange". The reasons behind the strange coloration have not yet been discovered. For more information, contact Paul or Grace Yoxon, Skye Environmental Centre, at <>. (Sources: London Times; Skye Environmental Centre)

Area of Scottish isle to be reconsidered for protection - The Scottish Executive confirmed on 3 September that the South East Islay Skerries on the Scottish island of Islay are to be re-considered as a proposed Special Area of Conservation (SAC) for harbour seals (Phoca vitulina vitulina) under the European Community's Habitats Directive. The decision comes after a petition was presented in the legal courts by the owners of an Islay seal sanctuary against the Scottish Executive for its decision to drop the site from its list of proposed SACs. The seal sanctuary is based at the proposed SAC site and releases its seals into the site. A local landowner, Sir John MacTaggart, objects to the area being given SAC status and wants to retain the right to shoot seals in the area (see News Review, 21 March 1999). For more information, contact John Robins, Animal Concern, at <> or George and Fiona Middleton, Islay and Jura Seal Action Group, at <>. (Source: Animal Concern)

. Orkney island purchased to protect seal population - On 1 August the Scottish Wildlife Trust paid tribute to the mystery benefactor whose cash gift enabled them to buy the 56-hectare uninhabited island of Linga Holm, in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, as a sanctuary for Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus). Linga Holm is the world's third largest island-based breeding colony of Grey seals with 2,300 pups having been counted there in 1997. The Trust's Chief Executive, Steve Sankey, said that the Trust would work in partnership with local seal conservation organisations in the hope of setting up a local contact to monitor the seals' progress and give them early warning of any threats to the seals. Mr. Sankey also commented that the greatest threat faced by the seals is the regular call from some Scottish fishermen for a large-scale seal cull and said that the Trust remained opposed to the culling of seals for any reason. The Trust has launched a fundraising drive, 'Operation Seal Island', to pay for the management costs of the island, and intends to lobby the authorities to have the island designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest or as a Special Area of Conservation. For more information, contact the Scottish Wildlife Trust at <>. (Sources: Aberdeen Press & Journal; Scottish Wildlife Trust)

. Several instances of wandering seals reported - A number of seals have been reported as having been observed in the last few months in regions where they are rarely encountered. Among these was a sick and exhausted six-month-old female Hooded Seal (Cystophora cristata) which was found in the Orkney Islands, Scotland, in September, only the third Hooded Seal to have been observed in the islands. She was taken in by Orkney Seal Rescue but unfortunately died after only a few days. For more information, contact Ross Flett, Orkney Seal Rescue, at <>.