After strong recovery, Antarctic fur seals face new threat

Declining food is causing populations to fall

Antarctic fur seals have recovered from the brink of extinction, but they now face dangerous declines due to lack of food.

In a study published in Global Change Biology, researchers found that the fur seal peaked in 2009 at about 3.5 million. A detailed study of seals occupying one South Georgia island found numbers are plummeting as the seals struggle to find krill.

“We found both good and bad news about the fur seals,” said Jaume Forcada, a British Antarctic Survey scientist who led the new study. “The population has recovered very impressively throughout the twentieth century when seal hunting was banned. But twenty-first century changes to the abundance of krill in the Southern Ocean are now threatening these iconic animals all over again.”

Researchers found that rapidly rising sea temperatures in the region correlate with the seal population decline—pointing to a loss of krill as the most likely cause.

Read more from the British Antarctic Survey.






Header Image: An Antarctic fur seal and pup appear on a South Georgia island in Antarctica. Credit: Jaume Forcada