A review of data on abundance, trends in abundance, habitat use and diet of ice-breeding seals in the Southern Ocean (submitted to the 2008 Joint CCAMLR-IWC Workshop)
The development of models of marine ecosystems in the Southern Ocean is becoming increasingly important as a means of understanding and managing impacts such as exploitation and climate change. Collating data from disparate sources, and understanding biases or uncertainties inherent in those data, are important first steps for improving ecosystem models. This review focuses on seals that breed in ice habitats of the Southern Ocean (i.e. crabeater seal, Lobodon carcinophaga; Ross seal, Ommatophoca rossii; leopard seal, Hydrurga leptonyx; and Weddell seal, Leptonychotes weddellii). Data on populations (abundance and trends in abundance), distribution and habitat use (movement, key habitat and environmental features) and foraging (diet) are summarised, and potential biases and uncertainties inherent in those data are identified and discussed. Spatial and temporal gaps in knowledge of the populations, habitats and diet of each species are also identified.