On October 14, 2022, an expedition of the Institute of Hydrobiology and Ecology began. The main task of the expedition members is to count the number of seals hauling-out on islands and shalygas (sandbanks protruding from the sea surface) in the north-eastern part of the Caspian Sea.
“Having set up a field camp on one of the islands of the Zyuyd-Vestovyye Shalygi, located near the mouth of the Ural River in the north of the Caspian Sea, we are currently spotting seals, observing their behaviour, taking samples of water, hydrobionts in the water area adjacent to the islands,” said about the first expeditionary days Mirgaliy T. Baimukanov, Director of the institute, Head of expeditionary work. “Further, the expedition will go to seal haul-outs along the north-eastern part of the Caspian Sea to the dry area of the Komsomolets Bay.”
Scientists of the Institute of Hydrobiology and Ecology are planning to follow the route of their spring expedition, which took place in April this year (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1. The route of an expedition organised by the Institute of Hydrobiology and Ecology in April 2022.
Specialists will study the structure of seal aggregations, catch several animals in order to install satellite transmitters and take the animal blood for analysis. All studies will be carried out using non-invasive and minimally invasive methods, followed by the release of animals into the sea.
“The expedition plans,” M.T. Baimukanov said, “sampling sea water for chemical analysis, collecting samples to assess nutrition and food sufficiency for hauling-out seals. Anthropogenic factors that may adversely affect the distribution and survival of seals will also be registered. If dead animals are found, the specialists of our institute will take fangs for age assessment, determine morphometric parameters and, if possible, take biological samples to determine the causes of death.”
The studies are carried out by order of the Fisheries Committee of the Ministry of Ecology, Geology and Natural Resources of the Republic of Kazakhstan (Grant No. BR10264205). The project will involve specialists from other organizations: the Institute of Microbiology and Virology, Kazakhstan, and the University of Leeds, UK.