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National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML)

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April-May-June 2007
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Alaska Ecosystems Program

Steller Sea Lion Research

Permits authorizing most Steller sea lion research are still pending completion of NMFS evaluation of permit applications, a Final Programmatic Environmental Impact Statement for Steller sea lion and northern fur seal research, and a Biological Opinion under the Endangered Species Act of the proposed research. However, some studies that involve observational work with little likelihood of disturbances are currently authorized.

After a week of intense training in Seattle this May, seven seasonal and one full-time biologist from the Alaska Ecosystems Program (AEP) flew to Alaska to begin 2 months of fieldwork conducting observations of marked animals to estimate reproductive and survival rates. Three scientists were deployed on Ugamak Island in the eastern Aleutian Islands, and five were placed on Marmot Island in the Gulf of Alaska. In addition, on 9 June, AEP and Southwest Fisheries Science Center scientists began a biennial aerial survey to estimate the abundance of the western stock of Steller sea lions, using a NOAA de Havilland Twin Otter to survey all of the stocks rookeries and haulouts in the Gulf of Alaska and Aleutian Islands.

Other fieldwork beginning in June included ship-based observations of marked animals to estimate vital rates in the Aleutian Islands, Bristol Bay, the Kodiak Archipelago, the Katmai Coast, the Barren Islands, and north along the Kenai Peninsula.

The revised Steller Sea Lion Recovery Plan was released by NMFS in May 2007 for another round of public and peer review; the review period will end in August 2007.

By Jim Thomason

Northern Fur Seal Update

Data are still being received from satellite telemetry tags deployed on adult female, pup, and juvenile northern fur seals during fieldwork conducted in October-November 2006 (see articles in the October-December 2006 and January-March 2007 issues of the AFSC Quarterly Report).

Similar to previous years, the majority of the 19 tagged adult females headed south to the North Pacific Transition Zone. Although most of the tags deployed on females in fall 2006 had stopped transmitting by the end of March 2007, transmissions were still being received from one tagged female off the southern coast of Vancouver Island in mid-June.

Of 30 tags deployed on juveniles, two instruments are still transmitting as of this writing. Both of these tags are on females that were just west of the Queen Charlotte Islands (~52N, 132W) in mid-June. A third tagged juvenile, a male, was in the north central Pacific (~42N, 160W) when last heard from in mid-June.

Seventeen of 47 satellite tags deployed on fur seal pups were also still transmitting as of mid-June. At that time, the majority of the tagged pups were scattered across the North Pacific from long. 150 to 180W, between lat. 40 and 50N. However, three other pups were farther a field: one was still in the Bering Sea after spending the winter there, another was in the Gulf of Alaska, and the third was just southeast of the Kuril Islands in the northwestern Pacific.

By Jim Thomason

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