Oral Presentation- Symposium 12th International Mammalogical Congress

CANCELLED - The Ross seal in eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica (#98)

Marthán N. Bester 1 , Mia Wege 1 , Nico Lübcker 1 , Martin Postma 1
  1. University of Pretoria, Hatfield, Pretoria, Gauteng, South Africa

The Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii) is the least numerous and least studied of the Antarctic ice-breeding phocids. Although listed as a ‘Specially Protected Species’ under the Convention for the Conservation of Antarctic Seals (CCAS), their current circumpolar population status remains largely unknown due to data insufficiencies regarding their abundances. This presentation deals with the distribution, density and percentage contribution of Ross seals, compared to the other pack ice pinnipeds encountered on the cruise track of the SA Agulhas II, bounded by 24o46.8’W and 0o43.2’W in the eastern Weddell Sea in December 2015 to February 2016. The ship-board survey results are compared with earlier ship-board surveys in the same general area (Hall-Martin 1974; Wilson 1975; Condy 1976,1977) to ascertain the Ross seals’ current status off the Princess Martha Coast, Antarctica. Despite seasonal and annual differences in density of seals in pack ice ascribed to differences in pack ice density and extent, timing of censuses and the survey methods, crabeater seals still predominated by far in the eastern Weddell Sea in austral summer 2015/16. A relatively large population of Ross seals continued to be found in the pack ice off the Princess Martha Coast in mid-January 2016 at a density similar to what was considered to be high in the 1970s.

Condy PR (1976) S Afr J Antarct Res 6:2–8

Condy PR (1977) S Afr J Antarct Res 7:10–13

Hall-Martin AJ (1974) S Afr J Antarct Res 4:34-39

Wilson VJ (1975) S Afr J Antarct Res 5:31-36