Diet of harp seals (Phoca groenlandica) in nearshore waters of the northwest Atlantic during 1990 -
John W. Lawson, Garry B. Stenson, and Dave G. McKinnon
Science Branch, Department of Fisheries and Oceans, P.O. Box 5667, St. John's, NF, A1C 5X1
Canadian Journal of Zoology. 73: 1805 - 1818. 1995
Abstract: The nearshore diet of northwest Atlantic harp seals (Phoca groenlandica) was determined by reconstructing the contents of 1167 prey-containing stomachs (78.3% of 1490) collected from 1990 to 1993. Although harp seals consumed at least 62 species, 6 accounted for most of the mass consumed and their relative importance varied by area. Based on percent wet mass, sculpins (Cottidae) and Arctic cod (Boreogadus saida) were the main components of the diet of older seals (> I year old) off Labrador, whereas Arctic cod and Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) were the main prey of seals from northeastern Newfoundland. A more diverse diet was observed in seals taken off the west coast of Newfoundland, where capelin (Mallotus villosus), herring, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), redfish (Sebastes spp.), and Arctic cod were the main species. Redfish and Atlantic cod were important to seals along the south coast of Newfoundland. Eighty percent of fish consumed were less than 18 cm long, smaller than those taken by commercial fisheries. Pups (less than I year old) consumed fewer and smaller prey of a less varied assortment. Annual and seasonal variation in the diets was observed in the collection from northeastern Newfoundland. Arctic cod was the major prey consumed throughout the year by seals of all ages, although the relative importance of herring, capelin, and squid (Teuthoidea) increased during the summer. Invertebrates and capelin made up a greater proportion of the diet in 1992, owing to a decline in consumption of Arctic cod. This finding was associated with a decrease in the mass of stomach contents. Diet diversity did not change significantly over the study period.