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ESR prepress abstract   -  DOI:

Protected area use by two sympatric marine predators repopulating their historical range

Marcus Salton*, Matt Carr, L. Max Tarjan, Justin Clarke, Roger Kirkwood, David Slip, Robert Harcourt

*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: As large carnivores recover from over-exploitation, managers often lack evidence-based information on species habitat requirements and the efficacy of management practices, particularly where species repopulate areas from which they have long been extirpated. We investigated the movement and habitat use of 2 semi-aquatic carnivores (Australian fur seals Arctocephalus pusillus doriferus and New Zealand fur seals A. forsteri) at the northern end of their distributions in Australia, where after long absence both are recolonising their historic range. We also assess male fur seal habitat use overlap with terrestrial and marine protected areas (PAs). While at the margin of the range during winter and early spring, the males remained inshore close to terrestrial sites and where interactions with humans often occur. From early spring, the males from the range margin showed uniform movement toward colonies in the core of the species’ range prior to their breeding seasons. This contrasts with males tracked from the core of the species’ range that return periodically to colonies during the year, and highlights the importance of range-wide monitoring of a species to inform conservation planning. Habitat use of some males included over 90% of a marine PA at the margin of the species’ range. Most terrestrial haul-outs used were within terrestrial PAs, while sites not protected were on the margin of the range. Despite wide-ranging habits, their dependence on coastal sites where human access and activities can be regulated and more readily enforced, suggests terrestrial and marine PAs will continue to play an important role in managing their recovery.