Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/1946/25487
The harbour seal population in Iceland is currently in decline and many factors could be contributing to this. Currently there is insufficient evidence to show exactly what is causing this. In the first part of this project, population count data from around the Icelandic coastline and more locally from around Vatnsnes and Heggstaðanes peninsulas, was analysed to look at abundance changes between the years 2008 and 2015. The results from this project showed that between some areas there has been a decline in the abundance of seals from 2011 to 2014. Overall the total number of seals has not significantly changed between years on Vatnsnes and Heggstaðanes but the abundance of the seals is not uniform around the coastline. Leaving out areas with a very small number of seals (1-3) would cause significant bias to the results of population counts. Distribution changes of the seal population at some sites could be related to increasing tourism. Tourism is fairly new to Iceland and therefore the effect of wildlife watching on the Icelandic seal population is largely unknown. In the second part of this project the effect of tourism will be studied; this is focused on harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) behaviour within Miðfjörður from a seal watching boat that operates from Hvammstangi and this behaviour data was compared to data collected in 2010 and 2011 from the same boat. The results from this show that vigilance and flushing of seals increased as the distance to the boat decreased and the amount of time the boat stopped and the day of the year also had an effect. The compliance to the voluntary code of conduct was assessed using this data and it was found on average the boat complied 70% of the time with all guidelines in the code of conduct. These results will provide a basis on which to compile management and conservation plans for the seal population locally and nationally. It is important to investigate both seal abundance and the effect of tourism as they could both have an impact on each other.
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