The spotted seal is critically endangered in Iceland, according to the Icelandic Institute of Natural History’s newest Red List. RÚV reported first. Spotted seals numbered 7,600 in 2016, down from around 33,000 when monitoring of their stocks began in 1980. The animals’ numbers thus decreased around 77% over the 35-year period. If seal numbers continue to decrease at the same rate, they will decrease by 84% over the next 45 years, a time period of three generations for the animals.
The Institute states that spotted seals have very little protection in Iceland and further research is needed to know what is causing their numbers to drop. The decrease has been attributed to seals getting caught in fishing nets, as well as hunting. Though traditional seal hunting is rarely practiced in Iceland, seals are still hunted around estuaries in order to minimise their alleged impact on salmon stocks. Other factors which could affect seal numbers are food shortage, environmental changes, pollution, and disease.
Kristinn Haukur Skarphéðinsson, Head of Zoology at the Institute, says seal “deaths need to be reduced, whatever the causes,” adding that legislation protecting the animals is still “in the mid-19th century.”