Hi-tech smartphone technology is to be used to find out why seal populations off the north and east coasts and Orkney have fallen dramatically.
The study will be carried out by the Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) at the University of St Andres at the request of the Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage, which have great concerns for the future survival of harbour seals in areas of Scotland.
Harbour seals – one of two seal species in the UK – have declined in numbers by up to 90 per cent in some areas in and around the north and east coast of Scotland, including Orkney, since 2000.
Researchers will use Vodaphone’s latest machine-to-machine (M2M) technology to send information from the seal when it surfaces or beaches back to SMRU for analysis.
M2M technology is now a standard feature in new cars, heart monitors and smart meters, but it has never been used to help monitor marine mammals.
The marine telemetry tags, which are small and lightweight, attach harmlessly to the fur at the back of the seals and drop off when the seal moults.