Since 2009, under a national monitoring programme for Annex II seal populations (i.e., Grey seal Halichoerus grypus and Harbour seal Phoca vitulina), NPWS has been conducting surveys of all the major Grey seal breeding colonies in Ireland, broken into three regions: (1) East; (2) Southwest-West; (3) West-Northwest. Each regional survey, which takes place in September-November, is designed to estimate annual pup production and thereby all-age population size around the coast. Regular regional estimates will then be combined to deliver national population assessments.
In relation to Harbour seals, a twin-track approach targeting the annual moult season for Harbour seals (August-September approx.) is being pursued. The moult season is when the highest numbers of seals gather ashore. Survey work consists of the following components: (1) a national aerial thermal imaging survey within the 6-year Habitats Directive reporting cycle, in order to produce an updated minimum estimate of the national population size and (2) annual monitoring on the ground by NPWS regional staff at key regional haul-out sites in order to deliver recurrent data on approximately 40-50% of the national population.
NPWS also continues to provide support to its government partners in relation to the interactions between seals and human activities.