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Opportunistic ship-based census of pack ice seals in eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica

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The distribution, density and percentage contribution of pack ice pinnipeds during ship-board censuses in the eastern Weddell Sea in summer 2015/2016 are presented. Of the four true pack ice seal species encountered, crabeater seals predominated. Despite the low survey effort, Ross seals continued to be relatively abundant in the pack ice off the Princess Martha Coast in mid-January 2016, similar to the situation here in the 1970s. Censusing of Ross seals is ideally carried out in late January/early February when the species’ haulout probability is at its maximum and the seals are gathered in the limited summer pack ice to moult.

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The Officers and Crew of the MV SA Agulhas II extended every possible courtesy to us in support of our research objectives. Chief Scientist, Dr Thato Mtshali, is thanked for his support, and the Department of Environment Affairs’ Co-ordinating Officer (DCO) and Deputy DCO, for facilitation. The Department of Environment Affairs (DEA) for logistical support within South African National Antarctic Programme (SANAP), and the Department of Science and Technology (DST), through the National Research Foundation (NRF), for funding this project. This work is based on the research supported by the NRF (Grant Number 93088) and the authors acknowledge that opinions, findings and conclusions expressed in this publication generated by the NRF supported research is that of the authors, and that the NRF accepts no liability whatsoever in this regard.

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Correspondence to Marthán N. Bester.

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The University of Pretoria Animal Ethics Committee cleared the procedures of this project (Number EC082–15) under South African Department of Environmental Affairs Permit 04/2015–2016, pursuant to the provisions of Article 3 of the Protocol on Environmental Protection to the Antarctic Treaty, and Annex II and Annex V (Article 10(2)).

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Bester, M.N., Wege, M., Lübcker, N. et al. Opportunistic ship-based census of pack ice seals in eastern Weddell Sea, Antarctica. Polar Biol 42, 225–229 (2019).

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