HC Deb 03 March 1994 vol 238 cc795-6W
Mrs. Golding

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland how the Sea Mammals Research Unit estimates the number of grey and common seals in Scotland; if the seal population of lochs is included; and what assessment he has made of the method of counting.

Sir Hector Monro

Each year, the sea mammal research unit—SMRU—carries out counts of grey seal pups using aerial photography. All major Scottish colonies are surveyed, including Loch Eriboll—the only site within a loch where significant numbers breed.

The SMRU counts common seals along the Scottish coastline during August each year, using a thermal-imaging camera mounted in a helicopter. The survey is repeated on a five-year cycle and includes all islands and sea lochs.

The SMRU survey programme for Scottish seals is reviewed annually by the special committee on seals, an independent group of experts.