Under the requirements of the EU Habitats Directive the UK Government has established a series of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) which, with Special Protection Areas, form a series known as Natura 2000 (N2K). Articles 11 and 17(1) of the Habitats Directive require that member states regularly assess the ecological condition of the designated features within the N2K series. Condition Assessment of European Marine Sites is carried out on a six yearly cycle, and it is the responsibility of Natural England to report this to Europe through the JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Committee).
One of the qualifying marine features for SAC designation is the Annex II species the grey seal (Halichoerus grypus). SAC sites for grey seals reflect both the largest breeding colonies, based on pup production, as well as the geographical range of breeding sites. The Isles of Scilly was designated a European Marine Site (EU code UK0013694) in 1996, with the grey seal, as one of its named features.
The objectives of this study were to carry out a comprehensive re-survey of the grey seal population breeding on the Isles of Scilly, following the 2005 survey (Westcott, 2008). Information on monitoring methods for marine mammals is contained in the guidance manual on Common Standards Monitoring (CSM) Guidance for Marine Mammals, JNCC (2005) and for this survey was based on essential attributes including (1) pup production; (2) the distribution of grey seal pups; (3) accessibility of SAC sites for breeding; (4) disturbance; (5) extent of breeding, moulting and haul out sites measured in terms of total area.
The results of this study will enable any changes to be monitored and so inform the site managers as to any adaptations that may need to be made to the future management of the SAC.