Posted on February 6, 2018
After many months of planning and preparation, it all came together Super Bowl Sunday for the Seal Tagging and Tracking project! The highly dedicated and experienced team, working under US Fleet Forces Command support, successfully tagged 4 harbor seals in Virginia waters.
Team members from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Atlantic, Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Newport, the Atlantic Marine Conservation Society, Virginia Aquarium, HDR, Inc., The Nature Conservancy, Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and the National Marine Fisheries Service spent months planning and problem solving to finally have success satellite tagging seals in Virginia. The Navy has been interested in tagging harbor seals because our current understanding of their habitat use in the mid-Atlantic is limited. Navy training and testing activities occur in areas that likely overlap with harbor seals in this region, therefore, it’s important to assess any potential impacts these activities may have.
The combination of the satellite telemetry data and acoustic transmitter data will yield a robust data set, providing greater insight into harbor seal use of the area. The satellite telemetry tags track and transmit the location, dive behavior, and environmental data which will be used for habitat and home range modeling, and to create maps of the seals’ movements and potentially undocumented haul-out locations. The acoustic transmitter tags rely on an array of underwater receivers already in place (see project profiles for sea turtle and seal tagging projects) to record the date and time when animals pass near the receiver, generally at a range up to 1km. The primary benefit of the acoustic transmitter data will be the ability to evaluate residency time and seasonality and they have the potential to transmit much longer than the satellite tags. The combination of the two tag types is sure to provide some unique and exciting results.
Stay tuned for more updates!