Smartphones to help probe seal numbers decline in Scotland

London, March 29 (IANS) In a first, researchers in Scotland are using smartphone-based technology to find the reason behind plummeting numbers of harbour seals in the country.

Part of a three-year study by researchers at Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at University of St Andrews in Scotland, the smartphone-based technology is being used to monitor the well-being of marine mammals, The National reported.

“Over the last 15 years, many of the harbour seal populations in the Northern Isles and on the north and east coasts of Scotland have been declining. Marine data collected during this project on Orkney will help to assess the causes, management and mitigation options in relation to the harbour seals’ decline and to prioritise future research directions,” Bernie McConnell, SMRU’s deputy director, was quoted as saying.

For the study, marine telemetry tags will be attached to the fur at the back of the heads of a number of harbour seals in Orkney Archipelago of Scotland.

Small and light, the tags work like smartphones, sending information back to scientists and will eventually drop off when the seal moults, the report explained.

The study is being carried out at the request of the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage after concerns were raised about the survival of harbour seals in the country.

“This exciting, collaborative study is vital to help us to better understand the drivers of population change in Scottish harbour seals, and to evaluate the potential conservation and management options open to us,” professor John Baxter from Scottish Natural Heritage was quoted as saying.

Harbour seals – one of two seal species in Britain – have declined by up to 90 percent in some areas in and around the north and east coast of Scotland, including Orkney, since 2000.

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