Diet of harp seals (Phoca groenlandica) feeding between the breeding and moulting seasons in the southern Barents and White Seas
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The harp seal Phoca groenlandica is the most abundant seal species in the Barents Sea. In order to evaluate the ecological importance of the species, diet studies have recently been carried out at various times of the year. In 1992, data were collected from seals sampled between the breeding and moulting seasons (March-May). There is no doubt that the animals feed during this period. From examinations of stomach and intestine contents, harp seals, sampled in the southwestern parts (Varangerfjord, North Norway) of the Barents Sea, appeared to have been feeding intensively on capelin Mallotus villosus. The harp seal diet in the commercial hunting areas north of the White Sea (the East Ice) consisted of prawns Pandalus borealis, capelin, cod Gadus morhua, saithe Pollachius virens, sculpins (Cottidae), snailfish (Liparidae) and long rough dab (Hippoglossoides plattessoides). Feeding in the East Ice area and in the White Sea appeared to have been less intensive than further to the west. In the White Sea the harp seals had been feeding mainly on crustaceans and the fishes sandeels (Ammodytidae), capelin and White Sea herring (Clupea harengus marisalbi) .