We recently received a report on the analysis of the stomach contents of a male common seal that had been sent for examination to the Sea Mammal Research Unit at St Andrews University. The seal had been sent for examination in April 2011. The report found that its diet had consisted of squid and salmon. Its stomach contents included a squid beak and three salmon otiliths (small bone like stuctures located behind the brain). In addition there was a Spey floy tag with the number still readable.
Examination of our records showed that the tag had been used to mark a fish trapped at Spey Dam in October 2010. It was a female salmon of 64cm in length. The only plausible explanation for the tag ending up in the seals stomach was that the salmon had spawned then migrated all the way back down the river, a distance of over 100 miles as the river flows; only to be eaten by a seal at the river mouth.
I’m not sure who I feel most sorry for, the salmon which had so nearly made it back to sea, or the seal for having such an unpalatable last meal!