Offshore Nova Scotia, fishermen accidentally discovered research equipment after three years of being lost at sea. Studying the data will help scientists learn more about the behavior of gray seals on Sable Island.
400 km east of Nova Scotia, two local residents discovered an unusual item among their catch of sea clams. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) have identified the object – it turned out to be a small digital camera for studying the behavior of seals. One of them went missing in 2017, when a male gray seal from Sable Island went to the Atlantic Ocean with a tracking device on its back and never returned.
Scientists have attached the camera to a seal as part of an ongoing population study from Sable Island. Since 2009, the Dalhousie-based Ocean Tracking Network (OTN) has been tagging and tracking gray seals on the island to document their movements and interactions with other marine species. Also, individuals are equipped with instruments to measure water temperature and other conditions in the ocean.
It wasn’t until October 2015 that cameras began to be used to collect video footage of seal feeding. In total, scientists attached cameras to eight seals – seven females and one male. To extend battery life, the cameras are programmed to start recording under optimal feeding conditions: at night and at least 25 meters below the surface.
After returning to OTN, the camera was sent to the manufacturer to have it repaired and to receive the footage. The files stored in the camera can reveal new information about the behavior of the gray seal, as well as confirm previous findings based on non-visual data.
Damian Lydgard, an OTN researcher, said this study of the life of seals is essential for the conservation of their species. He also added that after the incident with the male, scientists decided to install cameras only on pregnant females.