The majority of sightings by our Marine Mammal Observers in the last few weeks have been Grey seals (Halichoerus grypus), which are a member of the Phocidae family, more commonly known as the true seals.
When seen at sea, our Marine Mammal Observers have been recognising these seals by their distinctive long, broad, flat snout, and lack of any apparent forehead. Hauled out, the large, robust body, and short flippers should be visible. Males, which can reach 2.6 m in length, are dark in colour with lighter spots, whilst smaller females are light in colour, with dark spots.
Distributed in cold, temperate to sub-Arctic waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, three distinct grey seal populations exist. The Eastern Atlantic population is focused primarily in UK and Irish waters, whilst the Western Atlantic population is concentrated around north-eastern North America. A subspecies Halichoerus grypus macrorhynchus resides in the Baltic Sea.
Diet varies with location, but generally, grey seals are demersal or benthic feeders; common prey species include sandeels, cod, catfish, saithe, and herring.
Other sightings in the Atlantic include bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) and common dolphins (Delphinus delphis).