Southern elephant seals and CCAMLR
This paper describes research findings of primarily South African (including some French and Australian results) studies on the southern elephant seal (Mirounga leonina) in the Kerguelen province of the Southern Ocean. Sub-populations of this species have declined at Kerguelen, Marion, Prince Edward and Heard Islands. Population studies during the animals’ terrestrial phase have failed to explain this observed decline which has also been recently confirmed for the Macquarie Island stock. The availability of food, competition with rapidly growing fur seal populations and competition with fishing fleets have all been suggested as possible causes of the elephant seal’s decline in the region. Such explanations assume that a communal feeding ground, not yet identified, exists and that this exerts some common influence on the species’ population dynamics. As such, study of both the elephant seal’s spatial and temporal distribution during its pelagic phase is extremely important. Recent South African research in this field has been initiated and it is hoped that this will help to elucidate the reasons for the observed decline of M. leonina in the southern Indian Ocean.