Antarctic Fur Seal Trek: Pups!

Dan Costa, aboard the Yuzomegeologia, off Livingston Island - For the last two days, we've been busy counting fur seal pups to get an idea of how their population is doing. We count the pups, because the moms often go to sea to feed. If we counted females on the beach, we'd only count 20-30% of the number of females in the rookery here. The time they spend at sea varies from season to season, so you can't correct for the number present. So, we just count the number of pups. If we arrive early in the season, as we are now, the pups usually are staying on shore, and we can make a reliable count of the number of pups produced each year. This gives us an idea of how the population is doing.

Here's one of the fur seal pups, and, below, one of the rugged islands -- aptly named Window Island -- that we surveyed.

window island in south shetland islands This work is part of the research of Mike Goebel, who works for the AMLR program to monitor how fur seals are doing in the South Shetland Islands, and how that relates to the population of krill (here's a photo of Mike holding a fur seal pup). [ed. note: This is important, because more and more krill is harvested by humans. You wouldn't believe all the ways that krill shows up on grocery store shelves around the world: canned -- like tuna -- in Japan and Russia, in joint-pain relief pills in the U.S., as pizza topping in the Ukraine...the list goes on. Check out NOAA's page on how we humans use krill.]

Tomorrow is our last day of pup surveys and then we move to Cape Shirreff, where we begin tagging elephant seals and leopard seals.