The Wild North – Tourism Effects on Seals

The Icelandic Seal Center works in collaboration with landowners to study the effects of increasing tourism pressure on seals. In the summer of 2008, a pilot study was conducted in the area, and similar studies were carried out the following three summers. The effects of direct disturbance from tourists on the behaviour of seals were investigated, with emphasis on whether increased numbers of tourists at the seal watching site has a negative effect on the numbers of seals hauling out on the skerries.

Censuses of seals were also carried out at the haul-out site in Hindisvík, where tourists are not allowed access. This site was used as a measure of possible differences in seal behaviour in the absence of tourists.

The study was conducted on behalf of the project The Wild North, a nordic collaboration. The aim of The Wild North is to ensure the development of sustainable wildlife tourism. Similar studies are conducted by the Húsavík Research Center (the effect of tourism on whales), the Nature Research Institute of Nortwest Iceland (the effect of tourism on birds) and The Arctic Fox Center (the effect of tourism on the artic fox).