Journal Article Occurrence of the Kuril Harbour Seal (Phoca vitulina) at a small fixed fishing net in Akkeshi Bay, Hokkaido, Japan

Kobayashi, Yumi  ,  Kobayashi, Mari  ,  Sakurai, Yasunori  ,  Takada, Kiyoharu

Humans frequently come into conflict with marine mammals that compete for the same resources, such as seals exploiting the same areas as industrial fisheries. To develop efficient interventions to minimize the negative impact of seals on fisheries, it is essential to understand the behaviour of seals in the fishery area, such as where and when they occur. The present study characterizes an instance of human–seal conflict, using acoustic telemetry to examine patterns in the occurrence of three Kuril harbour seals (Phoca vitulina) around a small fixed set-net in Akkeshi Bay, eastern Hokkaido, Japan, in late spring in 2009. To examine the environmental variables affecting the occurrence of Kuril seals around the net, 3 Kuril seals were captured and tracked using an acoustic monitoring system. Two of the tracked individuals (a male and a female) usually came to the net in the evening, and at high tide, but the seals were never present at times when fishing occurred (04:00–07:00 h), which indicates that they actively avoided human activity in the coastal fishery. Seals did not appear in the net after the fishery season (April), a behavioural characteristic that suggests that these seals were adults that used a nearby haul-out site during the breeding season (May–June). A third individual, an adult male, never occurred near the net. These observations demonstrate the extent to which individual seals vary in their interactions with human activities. Given the current selective removal of seals in the fishery area by controlled killing or driving away, these findings have the potential to inform targeted management intervention to minimize conflict between economic and conservation interests.

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