Nature Champions: Grey Seal

(c) Sandra Graham

The Grey seal is the larger of two UK seal species, their scientific name, Halichoerus grypus, translates as “hook-nosed sea pig”. The UK has approximately 40% of the world grey seal population and they are found right around the UK coastline. They are distinguished from the harbour seal by their larger size and longer, more distinctive nose. Their fur is mainly grey, however also consists of unique spots and patches of darker brown and black.
They feed on a variety of species including sandeels, herring, octopus and squid. They can be found bobbing on the surface of the water, or ‘hauled out’ onto beaches or rocks. Males can live up to around 25 years, while females up to 35 years. Their fluffy white pups are born between September and December and quickly gain weight on land before heading out to sea to hunt for themselves.
While historically, their population dropped to as low as 500, there are now more than 120,000 grey seals in Britain.

Action Needed

  1. Support guidance on best practice for marine wildlife watching
  2. Implementation of management to reduce bycatch and prevent disturbance at haul out sites
  3. Support roll-out of non-disturbing and non-lethal methods of seal management on all fish farms
  4. Ensure the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy is fully implemented


Grey seals are threatened by entanglement in active and discarded fishing gear as well as marine litter, from public disturbances at ‘haul out’ sites and potential conflicts with marine industries, for example the use of Acoustic Deterrent Devices and licensed shooting of grey seals on fish farms.

MSP Nature Champion

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