This autumn, within the framework of the International Caspian Seal Research Program for the Northern Caspian in 2019-2023, supported by NCOC N.V, Kazakh-Russian studies were carried out to assess the current status of the Caspian seal population and key habitats of this species in the northern part of the Caspian. Scientists from A.N. Severtsov Institute of Ecology and Evolution of the RAS (Russia) – Glazov D.M., Shumeyko N.R., Solovyova M.A., Pilipenko G.Yu., Astrakhanskiy State Nature Biosphere Reserve named after the Red Banner of Labor (Russia) – Strelkov V.A., Sokolova I.V., Research and Production Center for Microbiology and Virology (Kazakhstan) – Kydyrmanov A.I., Karamendin K.O., Kasymbekov E.T., Kazakhstan Agency of Applied Ecology (Kazakhstan) – Klimov F.V., Mulyaev A.N. took part in the autumn studies, from October 6 to November 14, 2020.
The studies were carried out in Russian territorial waters (on Maliy Zhemchuzhniy Irland and sandbanks located next to it, and in the region of the Volga-Caspian Caтall) and in the Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea, in its northeastern part. Only intravital methods were used. Data on the distribution of the Caspian seal in the Northern Caspian in the autumn of 2020 were obtained, morphometric studies were carried out, biological material was collected for genetic, hormonal, serological, molecular-virological, toxicological and other studies. Seals were tagged with satellite transmitters to study their migration in the autumn-winter period. In the autumn of 2020, concentration of the Caspian seal was recorded in the area of Maliy Zhemchuzhniy Island, on sandbanks, located in the south and north of the North Caspian Sea Canal (the NCSC). On the surveyed sandbanks and islands, the abundance of the Caspian seal varied from 20 to 2000 individuals; around sandbanks, within a radius of up to 500 m, the distribution density varied from 30 to 60 individuals per km2. During the cruise of the RV Alina (from November 01 to November 03, 2020), 36 sightings of the Caspian seal (44 individuals) were recorded in the Kazakh waters of the Caspian Sea. When catching animals on two sandbanks located in the area of the NCSC, about 3830 seals were counted. Research results will be published in 2021.
The Caspian seals haul-out site on a sandbank in the area of the North Caspian Sea Canal. Photo by Mulyaev A.N.