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Harbour Seals: Population Structure, Status, and Threats in a Rapidly Changing Environment

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Norwegian College of Fishery Science, UiT The Arctic University of Norway, 9219 Tromsø, Norway
2
CEBC, UMR 7372, CNRS, La Rochelle Université, 5 Allée de l’Ocean, 17000 La Rochelle, France
3
National Park Service, Glacier Bay Field Station, 3100 National Park Road, Juneau, AK 99801, USA
4
Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, 7118 NE Vandenberg Ave, Corvallis, OR 97330, USA
5
North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission, POP 6453, Sykehusveien 21-23, 9294 Tromsø, Norway
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Current Address: Norwegian Polar Institute, Fram Centre, 9296 Tromsø, Norway.
Oceans 2021, 2(1), 41-63; https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans2010003
Received: 3 November 2020 / Revised: 18 December 2020 / Accepted: 22 December 2020 / Published: 5 January 2021
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Marine Mammals in a Changing World)
The harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) is the world’s most widely distributed pinniped species ranging from temperate to Arctic regions (30–78.5° N in the Atlantic, 28–61.2° N in the Pacific), but no detailed overview of the species status exists. The aims of this review are to (i) provide current information on the genetic structure, population status, and threats; (ii) review potential consequences of a changing climate; and (iii) identify knowledge gaps to guide future research and monitoring. Although the species is globally abundant, wide differences exist across the species’ broad range. As climate warms, populations at the edges of the species’ distributional range are likely to be more affected. The primary climate-related drivers include: (i) changes in weather patterns, which can affect thermoregulation; (ii) decrease in availability of haul-out substrates; (iii) large-scale changes in prey availability and inter-specific competition; (iv) shifts in the range of pathogens; (v) increase in temperature favouring the biotransformation of contaminants; and (vi) increased exposure to pollutant from increased freshwater run-off. Multiple anthropogenic stressors may collectively impact some populations. Coordinated monitoring efforts across and within regions is needed. This would allow for a spatially explicit management approach including population-specific responses to known stressors. View Full-Text
Keywords: harbour seal; Phoca vitulina; pinniped; distribution; population status; climate change; edge effect; knowledge gaps harbour seal; Phoca vitulina; pinniped; distribution; population status; climate change; edge effect; knowledge gaps
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MDPI and ACS Style

Blanchet, M.-A.; Vincent, C.; Womble, J.N.; Steingass, S.M.; Desportes, G. Harbour Seals: Population Structure, Status, and Threats in a Rapidly Changing Environment. Oceans 2021, 2, 41-63. https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans2010003

AMA Style

Blanchet M-A, Vincent C, Womble JN, Steingass SM, Desportes G. Harbour Seals: Population Structure, Status, and Threats in a Rapidly Changing Environment. Oceans. 2021; 2(1):41-63. https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans2010003

Chicago/Turabian Style

Blanchet, Marie-Anne; Vincent, Cécile; Womble, Jamie N.; Steingass, Sheanna M.; Desportes, Geneviève. 2021. "Harbour Seals: Population Structure, Status, and Threats in a Rapidly Changing Environment" Oceans 2, no. 1: 41-63. https://doi.org/10.3390/oceans2010003

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