2007 Crabeater Seal Project

In April 2007, Dr. Mike Goebel of the AERD joined fellow collaborators in the Antarctic to study crabeater seals.  Goebel is a Co-PI on the project, funded jointly by NOAA and the National Science Foundation.   Below is a quick synopsis from Dr. Dan Costa (Co-PI, UCSC) about the project and the current field work:

2007 April crabeater work; photo by M Goebel"This project has two goals: the first is to track the movements and diving patterns of two species of seal, the crabeater seal and the southern elephant seal. The second is to acquire physical oceanographic data on the seals environment.  To do this we will put the specially designed Sea Mammal Research Unit tags out on 12 crabeater seals and 12 southern elephant seals. This cruise is specifically focused on putting tags out on crabeater seals, as Mike Goebel and Gitte McDonald deployed 12 tags on southern elephant seals during February [2007] from the South Shetland Islands and we are currently following these around the Antarctic Peninsula. Elephant seals are easier to tag as they haul out in rookeries and can be approached on land.  In contrast, crabeater seals are much more dispersed as they breed and haul out on pack ice.  We therefore need a ship to capture and tag them.

The ship we are using is the ARSV L. M. Gould. This is a vessel operated for the National Science Foundation to support Antarctic research in the Palmer Peninsula region.  We will be sharing the vessel with another research Dr. Bruce Sidell who is studying with Patagonia Toothfish. There will be two cruises, this one which left Punta Area Chile on April 11 – 9 May and another which will leave Punta Arenas Chile on 12 Ma crabeater captures at night - photo by M.Goebely returning 3 June.  We have an international research team, on first cruise (this cruise) is Dan Costa, Mike Goebel [AERD/SWFSC], Birgitte McDonald, Luis Huckstadt (Chile), Mike Fedak (UK) and Dave Shuman. The second cruise will consist of Dan Crocker, Patrick Robinson, Samantha Simmons, Birgitte McDonald, Stella Villegas (Mexico) and Tracy Goldstein.

Previous work
As part of the Southern Ocean GLOBEC program we tracked the behavior of 34 crabeater seals during 2001 and 2002.  More recently we have tracked the behavior of 31 southern elephant seals from the South Shetland Islands at the northern end of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Results from this earlier work shows that crabeater and elephant seals use different but adjacent regions of the Antarctic Peninsula.  Southern elephant seals go far offshore, while crabeater seals stay much closer to shore along the continental shelf. We are now on our way to tag 14 crabeater seals, so that we can follow the movement patterns of southern elephant seals and crabeater seals at the same time."   (Read more about the complementary  basin-wide project).  

Daily_reportsThe previous link is a link to non-Federal government web site.  Click to review NOAA Fisheries disclaimer from Dan Costa and his field team provide more details and photos!

Last modified: 11/8/2017