October 7, 2008

Seal Hunts Must End, Say Boffins

A BAN on hunting the Caspian seal is needed to halt massive declines in numbers of the endangered mammal, scientists urged today.

The population has plummeted from more than a million at the start of the 20th century to about 100,000 today, as a result of commercial hunting, pollution, disease and drowning in fishing nets.

Researchers from the University of Leeds said recent surveys showed that in 2006 there were just 17,000 breeding females - barely enough to maintain a viable population.

A 2008 survey by the Leeds University team found the number of pups being born had plummeted by 60 per cent from 2005 levels to between just 6,000 and 7,000 youngsters.

Dr Simon Goodman of Leeds' Faculty of Biological Sciences, said: "Each female has just one pup a year, so with numbers at such low levels, every fertile female that dies is a nail in the coffin of the species.

"We're hoping that the seal's change in status will help raise awareness about their plight and the many important conservation issues."

(c) 2008 Evening Mail; Birmingham (UK). Provided by ProQuest LLC. All rights Reserved.