Polar Biology

, Volume 42, Issue 1, pp 225–229 | Cite as

Opportunistic ship-based census of pack ice seals in eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica

  • Marthán N. BesterEmail author
  • Mia Wege
  • Nico Lübcker
  • Martin Postma
  • Gavin Syndercombe
Short Note


The distribution, density and percentage contribution of pack ice pinnipeds during ship-board censuses in the eastern Weddell Sea in summer 2015/2016 are presented. Of the four true pack ice seal species encountered, crabeater seals predominated. Despite the low survey effort, Ross seals continued to be relatively abundant in the pack ice off the Princess Martha Coast in mid-January 2016, similar to the situation here in the 1970s. Censusing of Ross seals is ideally carried out in late January/early February when the species’ haulout probability is at its maximum and the seals are gathered in the limited summer pack ice to moult.


Pack ice seals Ross seals Crabeater seals Eastern Weddell Sea Ship-board censuses Austral summer 2015/2016 



The Officers and Crew of the MV SA Agulhas II extended every possible courtesy to us in support of our research objectives. Chief Scientist, Dr Thato Mtshali, is thanked for his support, and the Department of Environment Affairs’ Co-ordinating Officer (DCO) and Deputy DCO, for facilitation. The Department of Environment Affairs (DEA) for logistical support within South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP), and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), through the National Research Foundation (NRF), for funding this project. This work is based on the research supported by the NRF (Grant Number 93088) and the authors acknowledge that opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this publication generated by the NRF supported research is that of the authors, and that the NRF accepts no liability whatsoever in this regard.

Compliance with ethical standards

The University of Pretoria Animal Ethics Committee cleared the procedures of this project (Number EC082–15) under South African Department of Environmental Affairs Permit 04/2015–2016, pursuant to the provisions of Article 3 of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, and Annex II and Annex V (Article 10(2)).


  1. Arcalís-Planas A, Sveegaard S, Karlsson O, Harding KC, Wahlin A, Harkonen T, Teilmann J (2015) Limited use of sea ice by the Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii), in Amundsen Sea, Antarctica, using telemetry and remote sensing data. Polar Biol 38:445–461CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bester MN (2014) Ross Seal. In: Hund A (ed) Antarctica and the Arctic Circle: a geographic encyclopedia of the earth’s polar regions, vol 2. ABC-CLIO Inc., Santa Barbara, pp 618–620Google Scholar
  3. Bester MN, Erickson AW, Ferguson JWH (1995) Seasonal change in the distribution and density of seals in the pack ice off Princess Martha Coast, Antarctica. Antarct Sci 7:357–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bester MN, Ferguson JWH, Jonker FC (2002) Population densities of pack ice seals in the Lasarev Sea, Antarctica. Antarct Sci 14:123–127CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bester MN, Odendaal PN (2000) Abundance and distribution of Antarctic pack ice seals in the Weddell Sea. In: Davison W, Howard-Williams C, Broady P (eds) Antarctic ecosystems: models for wider ecological understanding. Caxton Press, Christchurch, pp 51–55Google Scholar
  6. Blix AS, Nordøy ES (2007) Ross seal (Ommatophoca rossii) annual distribution, diving behaviour, breeding and moulting, off Queen Maud Land, Antarctica. Polar Biol 30:1449–1458CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bornemann H, Oosthuizen WC, Bester MN (2014) Seal research at the Filchner Outflow System (SEAFOS). In: Knust R, Schröder M (eds) The expedition PS82 of the research vessel POLARSTERN to the southern Weddell Sea in 2013/2014 AWI Rep Polar Mar Res, vol 680, pp 115–135Google Scholar
  8. Cavalieri DJ, Parkinson CL, Gloersen P, Zwally HJ (1996) Sea ice concentrations from Nimbus-7 SMMR and DMSP SSM/I-SSMIS passive microwave data, version 1. Boulder, Colorado USA. NASA National Snow and Ice Data Center Distributed Active Archive Center. (Accessed on 2016-12-27)
  9. Condy PR (1976) Results of the third seal survey in the King Haakon VII Sea, Antarctica. S Afr J Antarct Res 6:2–8Google Scholar
  10. Condy PR (1977) Results of the fourth seal survey in the King Haakon VII Sea, Antarctica. S Afr J Antarct Res 7:10–13Google Scholar
  11. Eklund CR, Atwood EL (1962) A population study of Antarctic seals. J Mamm 43:229–238CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Erickson AW (1984) Aerial census of seals, whales and penguins in the pack ice of the northwestern Weddell Sea, November 1983. Antarct J US 19:121–124Google Scholar
  13. Erickson AW, Cline DR, Hoffman RJ (1969) Population study of seals in the Weddell Sea. Antarct J US 4:99–100Google Scholar
  14. Erickson AW, Hanson MB, Kehoe DM (1983) Population densities of seals and whales observed during the 1983 circumnavigation of Antarctica by the USCGC Polar Star. Antarct J US 18:163–166Google Scholar
  15. Erickson AW, Bledsoe LJ, Hanson MB (1989) Bootstrap correction for diurnal activity cycle in census data for Antarctic seals. Mar Mamm Sci 5:29–56CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Erickson AW, Hanson MB (1990) Continental estimates and population trends of Antarctic ice seals. In: Kerry K, Hemper G (eds) Antarctic ecosystems: ecological change and conservation. Springer, New York, pp 253–264CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Erickson AW, Siniff DB, Harwood J (1993) Estimation of population sizes. In: Laws RM (ed) Antarctic seals: research methods and techniques. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 29–45CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Gurarie E, Bengtson JL, Bester MN, Blix AS, Bornemann H, Cameron M, Nordøy ES, Plötz J, Steinhage D, Boveng P (2017) Distribution, density and abundance of Antarctic ice seals in Queen Maud Land and the eastern Weddell Sea. Polar Biol 40:1149–1165CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hall-Martin AJ (1974) Observations on population density and species composition of seals in the King Haakon VII Sea, Antarctica. S Afr J Antarct Res 4:34–39Google Scholar
  20. Laws RM (1993) Identification of species. In: Laws RM (ed) Antarctic seals: research methods and techniques. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 1–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Van Opzeeland I, Van Parijs S, Bornemann H, Frickenhaus S, Kindermann L, Klinck H, Plötz J, Boebel O (2010) Acoustic ecology of Antarctic pinnipeds. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 414:267–291CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Siniff DB, Cline DR, Erickson AW (1970) Population densities of seals in the Weddell Sea, Antarctica in 1968. In: Holdgate MW (ed) Antarctic Ecology. Academic Press, London, pp 377–394Google Scholar
  23. Southwell C, Bengtson J, Bester MN, Blix AS, Bornemann H, Boveng P, Cameron M, Forcada J, Laake J, Nordøy E, Plötz J, Rogers T, Southwell D, Steinhage D, Stewart BS, Trathan P (2012) A review of data on abundance, trends in abundance, habitat use and diet of ice-breeding seals in the Southern Ocean. CCAMLR Sci 19:49–74Google Scholar
  24. Teschke K, Beaver D, Bester M, Bombosch A, Bornemann H et al (2016) Scientific background document in support of the development of a CCAMLR MPA in the Weddell Sea (Antarctica), Part A: General context of the establishment of MPAs and background information on the Weddell Sea MPA planning area. CCAMLR WG-EMM-15/38:89 ppGoogle Scholar
  25. Wilson VJ (1975) A second survey of seals in the King Haakon VII Sea, Antarctica. S Afr J Antarct Res 5:31–36Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marthán N. Bester
    • 1
    Email author
  • Mia Wege
    • 1
  • Nico Lübcker
    • 1
  • Martin Postma
    • 1
  • Gavin Syndercombe
    • 2
  1. 1.Mammal Research Institute, Department of Zoology and EntomologyUniversity of PretoriaHatfieldSouth Africa
  2. 2.SMIT Amandla MarineCape TownSouth Africa

Personalised recommendations