Journal Article

Estimation of harp seal (<i>Pagophilus groenlandicus</i>) pup production in the North Atlantic completed: results from surveys in the Greenland Sea in 2002

Tore Haug, Garry B. Stenson, Peter J. Corkeron and Kjell T. Nilssen

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 63, issue 1, pages 95-104
Published in print January 2006 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2006 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Estimation of harp seal (Pagophilus groenlandicus) pup production in the North Atlantic completed: results from surveys in the Greenland Sea in 2002

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  • Environmental Science
  • Marine and Estuarine Biology


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From 14 March to 6 April 2002 aerial surveys were carried out in the Greenland Sea pack ice (referred to as the “West Ice”), to assess the pup production of the Greenland Sea population of harp seals, Pagophilus groenlandicus. One fixed-wing twin-engined aircraft was used for reconnaissance flights and photographic strip transect surveys of the whelping patches once they had been located and identified. A helicopter assisted in the reconnaissance flights, and was used subsequently to fly visual strip transect surveys over the whelping patches. The helicopter was also used to collect data for estimating the distribution of births over time. Three harp seal breeding patches (A, B, and C) were located and surveyed either visually or photographically. Results from the staging flights suggest that the majority of harp seal females in the Greenland Sea whelped between 16 and 21 March. The calculated temporal distribution of births were used to correct the estimates obtained for Patch B. No correction was considered necessary for Patch A. No staging was performed in Patch C; the estimate obtained for this patch may, therefore, be slightly negatively biased. The total estimate of pup production, including the visual survey of Patch A, both visual and photographic surveys of Patch B, and photographic survey of Patch C, was 98 500 (s.e. = 16 800), giving a coefficient of variation of 17.9% for the survey. Adding the obtained Greenland Sea pup production estimate to recent estimates obtained using similar methods in the Northwest Atlantic (in 1999) and in the Barents Sea/White Sea (in 2002), it appears that the entire North Atlantic harp seal pup production, as determined at the turn of the century, is at least 1.4 million animals per year.

Keywords: abundance; aerial surveys; birth distribution; Greenland Sea; harp seal; pup production

Journal Article.  6587 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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