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The effect of land based seal watching tourism on the haul-out behaviour of harbour seals ( Phoca vitulina) in Iceland

By S. M. Granquist, H. Sigurjonsdottir

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Abstract

The effect of land-based seal watching on the haul-out pattern of harbour seals ( Phoca vitulina) was investigated between June and August of 2008-2010 on Vatnsnes, NW Iceland. The results showed that the behaviour and spatial haul-out pattern of seals was affected by the tourists. In 2009 the seals were more likely to be vigilant during periods when tourists had access to the area, compared to a period when tourists were not allowed in the area. Also, in 2010 the likeliness of the seals being vigilant increased as the number of tourists in the area increased. In addition, seals were more likely to be vigilant when tourists behaved in an active way. During the post weaning period, which coincided with the peak of the tourist season, a significantly higher proportion of seals hauled out on the skerry located farthest away from land, compared to a skerry closer to land. Seals also preferred to haul out further away from land when the number of tourists in the area increased. Single tourists and couples behaved more passively compared to families and tourist groups of more than two adults. All tourist group types were significantly more active in an approaching zone than in the seal watching zone. Education of tourists, for example through a code of conduct built on these results, is advisable to minimise disturbance of seals in the area.

Date 2014
Publication Title Applied Animal Behaviour Science
Volume 156
Pages 85-93
ISBN/ISSN 0168-1591
Publisher Elsevier
DOI 10.1016/j.applanim.2014.04.004
Author Address Institute of Freshwater Fisheries, Brekkugata 2, 530 Hvammstangi, Iceland.sandra@veidimal.is hrefnas@hi.is
Additional Language English
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Tags
  1. Animal behavior
  2. Animal nutrition
  3. Animals
  4. Animal welfare
  5. Aquacultural and fisheries
  6. Aquatic Biology and Ecology
  7. Aquatic organisms
  8. Biological resources
  9. Carnivores
  10. Developed countries
  11. Education
  12. Effect
  13. Europe
  14. Family
  15. Iceland
  16. Invertebrates
  17. Mammals
  18. Marine mammals
  19. OECD countries
  20. physiology
  21. Scandinavia
  22. Seals
  23. Tourism and travel
  24. training
  25. vertebrates
  26. weaning
  27. Wild animals
  28. wildlife