Alaska Department of Fish and Game
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Ice Seal Research Projects
Four species of Alaskan seals that are associated with sea ice during some part of each year are often called “ice seals.” These are ringed, bearded, spotted, and ribbon seals and they are important species to coastal communities for food and skins and they are important to the Arctic marine ecosystem. We work with the Ice Seal Committee, which is an Alaska Native Co-management organization that has a co-management agreement with the National Marine Fisheries Service (the federal agency responsible for seals). Our studies focus on working with subsistence hunters and their communities to collect samples from harvested seals for analysis to monitor the status and health of each species. We coordinate surveys in some communities to document harvest, and we work with hunters to capture seals for tagging in order to learn about seal movements and habitat use.
Ice Seal Biological Monitoring
We can monitor the status and health of seal populations from measurements and tissues collected from the annual subsistence harvest. This research is especially valuable because we do not have effective or affordable ways to determine the abundance or trend in the abundance of any of the four populations.
Ice Seal Harvest Monitoring
There are more than 60 communities in Alaska that harvest ice seals for food and skins, but harvest levels have only been documented in a few of these communities. Documenting harvest can show how many seals are needed for each community and help us determine how harvest has changed over the years and how it might change in the future. Monitoring harvests may also provide information about changes in species’ availability.
Hooper Bay Seal Tagging Project
With the help of seal hunters from the Village of Hooper Bay to deploy transmitters, we use satellite-telemetry as a tool to track ice seals to learn more about their movements, diving behavior, and habitat use.
Kotzebue Sound Seal Tagging Project
We have worked with seal hunters from the Native Village of Kotzebue to capture and tag ringed seals to learn more about movements and habitat use. We are expanding this project to other villages.