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Pilot Study about grey seal predation on marine mammals in the German North Sea


Project leader: Prof. Prof. h. c. Dr. Ursula Siebert
Scientific work: Abbo van Neer
Project term: May 2015 through December 2015
Sponsorship: Ministry for Energy Transition, Agriculture, Environment and Rural Areas of the State of Schleswig-Holstein

Project Description 


Since 2013 it has been reported from areas around Helgoland and other parts of the North Sea that grey seals (Halichoerus grypus) show a previously unknown predation behaviour. It has been proven that harbour seals (Phoca vitulina), harbour porpoises (Phocoena phocoena) and other grey seals in this area are hunted, killed and eaten.

In this pilot study the newly recognised predation behaviour will be examined and evaluated. The overall aim is to develop a concept to assess how long the predation behaviour of grey seals has occurred in German waters. The study will investigate whether this predation behaviour is unique to individual animals or if it occurs frequently in specific gender and age groups. In addition, investigations regarding which areas of the North Sea are more likely to have such interactions will be conducted and a further investigation will be conducted to determine whether there are seasonal or regional factors that contribute to this behaviour.

To answer the above questions, a retrospective review of the pathologies on found dead seals, porpoises and grey seals in recent years will be used. Furthermore, a concept for new methods to safely detect grey seal induced injuries will be developed in order to correctly classify retrieved carcasses. Ultimately, the findings will support the management of grey seals in German waters.


Grey seal induced injuries of a joung harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) © ITAW

Contact person

University of Veterinary Medicine Hannover, Foundation Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research Werftstr. 6 25761 Büsum


Abbo van Neer

E-Mail schreiben

Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
Institute for Terrestrial and Aquatic Wildlife Research
Werftstr. 6
25761 Büsum
Tel.:+49 511 856-8162
Fax.:+49 511 856-8181
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