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ESR 38:177-188 (2019)  -  DOI:

Stranding trends of Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus 1990–2015

Janessa Esquible, Shannon Atkinson*

College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Fisheries Department, University of Alaska Fairbanks, Juneau, Alaska 99801, USA
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Distinct population segments of Steller sea lion (SSL) Eumetopias jubatus have experienced different population trends over the last 5 decades, rendering the need for retrospective study. By identifying long-term stranding trends of SSLs we can develop a better understanding of factors contributing to mortality that may affect SSL population dynamics. We characterized spatial and temporal trends of SSL strandings (n = 1507) in Alaska, Oregon, and Washington, USA, over a 25 yr period. Stranding reports were obtained from the Alaska and Northwest Region’s Marine Mammal Stranding Networks. Temporal trends were assessed by identifying seasonal patterns across all years (1990-2015), analyzing sex, age class, body length, and characterizing signs of human interaction including factors contributing to mortality. An apparent increase in strandings occurred after 2000, likely due to increased stranding response effort resulting from increased federal grant awards. Adult males were the most frequently stranded sex and age class in the Alaska (AK) and Northwest (NW) Regions. Clear seasonality trends were evident, with the greatest reported stranding occurrences during the spring and summer. Gunshot wounds and fishery interactions accounted for a large proportion (90%) of human interaction cases. In Alaska, the southeast region had the highest number of strandings. In the NW Region, Oregon had the highest documented strandings. Despite caveats associated with stranding data, our findings suggest rapid timing of continued stranding response is imperative for a better understanding of cause-specific mortality trends and other factors contributing to stranding events.

KEY WORDS: Steller sea lions · Eumetopias jubatus · Strandings · Mortality trends · Alaska Region · Northwest Region

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Cite this article as: Esquible J, Atkinson S (2019) Stranding trends of Steller sea lions Eumetopias jubatus 1990–2015. Endang Species Res 38:177-188.

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