Increased predation by killer whales (orcas) has been suggested as one possible factor in the unexplained decline in harbour seal numbers around Orkney and Shetland.
The suggestion was raised by Andrew Foote of the University of Aberdeen at a recent conference of the European Cetacean Society.
Mr Foote estimates that between 1997 and 2006 orcas could have eaten over 3800 seal pups. While emphasizing that orca predation remained one factor among many, Mr. Foot considered that this would certainly be enough to impact the seal population.
Professor Ian Boyd, director of the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andrews said: "We are getting mixed messages from our studies of seal populations.
"On the one hand, we still have healthy populations of grey seals even though the increases of the 1990s are not being sustained.
"On the other hand, the causes of the recent decline in the common seal population are not understood."
Further details are available at:
BBC: 'Killer whales seal decline link'
The Herald: 'Scientists Reveal Cause of Seal Decline'
The Scotsman: 'Killer whales blamed for seal numbers fall'
Dundee Courier: 'Drop in Number of Tay Seals'
More about seals around Scotland (SNH)
contact: Prof Ian Boyd