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Viability of the Northeast Atlantic harbour porpoise and seal populations (genetic and ecological studies)
www.belspo.be/belspo/fedra/proj.asp?l=en&COD=EV/46

Dutch title: Leefbaarheid van de populaties van bruinvis en gewone zeehond in de noordoost-Atlantische sector (genetische en ecologische aspecten)
Parent project: Research action SPSD-II: Second scientific support plan for a sustainable development policy, more
Reference no: EV/46
Period: December 2003 till April 2006
Status: Completed
 Institutes | Publication 

Institutes (5)  Top | Publication 
  • Université de Liège; Faculté des Sciences; Département de Biologie, Ecologie et Evolution; Laboratoire d'Océanologie, more, co-ordinator
  • Université de Liège; Faculté des Sciences; Département des Sciences et Gestion de l'Environnement; Unité de zoogéographie, more, partner
  • Vrije Universiteit Brussel; Vakgroep Biologie; Laboratorium voor Ecotoxicologie en Polaire Ecologie (ETOX), partner
    • Joiris, Claude
    • Holsbeek, Ludo
  • Université de Liège; Faculté de Médecine Vétérinaire; Department of Morphology and Pathology; Pathologie générale (Ulg), more, partner
  • Belgian Science Policy (BELSPO), more, sponsor

Abstract
  • Context

    Marine mammals of the North Eastern Atlantic are all listed among vulnerable, declined, or threatened species by international directives. Among these species, the harbour porpoise (Phocoena phocoena) and the harbour seal (Phoca vitulina) are specially concerned due to their coastal distribution, in direct contact with shipping, fishing, and noise pollution and to its overall presence in reasonable number along the European coasts. Whereas some aspects such as the xenobiotic pollution are already largely studied, human impact is however hard to establish, mainly due to a blatant lack of information on marine mammals population ecology, density, distribution and diversity.

  • Project Description

    • Objectives

      This project aims to assess the viability of the harbour porpoise and harbour seal populations in the North Sea (focusing mainly on its southern Bay) through

      1. the characterisation of their genetic structure and diversity
      2. a better understanding of their feeding ecology
      3. the assessment of their susceptibility of being trapped accidentally in fishing nets

    • Methodology

      Following approaches will be considered to reach the objectives:

      1. The genetic structure of these populations will be investigated using four complementary genetic markers: the D-loop region of the mtDNA, the microsatellite markers of the Y and of the autosomous chromosomes, and the Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC).
      2. The determination of stable carbon and nitrogen signatures (d3C and d15N) in the muscles and blood of harbour porpoises and harbour seals will provide some further insights on their respective diets.
      3. The susceptibility to incidental capture will be investigated by both post-mortem investigations and systematic inventory of carcasses in fishing nets.

Publication  Top | Institutes 
  • Das, K. et al. (2007). Viability of the Northeast Atlantic harbour porpoise and seal population (genetic and ecological study): final report. Belgian Science Policy: Brussel. 42 pp.

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