News story

Research into seal deaths

Evidence shows grey seals may be responsible for spiral seal injuries.

Marine Scotland has published the results of research into the cause of unusual seal mortalities often referred to as spiral injuries.

This research provides strong evidence that predation by grey seals rather than ship propellers is likely to be the main cause of death of seals found with spiral injuries around the UK coast.

In 2010 the MMO worked with a number of organisations to look into the deaths of around 40 seals along the Norfolk coast which had distinctive spiral or corkscrew injuries. In particular it supported research by Marine Scotland and the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) following seal deaths in similar circumstances occurring more frequently in Scotland. Such injuries were also observed elsewhere in Europe.

The MMO welcomes the new evidence that natural predatory behaviour is likely to be the main cause. This research does not completely eliminate ship propellers, but it is now less likely they are a key factor.

Guidance will now be produced outlining the implications of the recent findings for regulators, statutory nature conservation bodies and developers working in and around the UK.

A press release and the full report are available on the Scottish Government website. Further information about the findings can be obtained by contacting the researchers directly.