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National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML)

Alaska Ecosystems Research Program

Conferences and Symposiums

Lowell Fritz from the Alaska Ecosystem Program (AEP) was a keynote speaker at the Marine Science in Alaska Symposium (Anchorage, AK), sponsored by the Exxon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council and cosponsored by the AFSC on 24-26 January 2005. The theme for the symposium was "Marine Science in Alaska: Managing Alaskan Ocean Resources." Fritz discussed the differences in recent trends in the populations of western Steller sea lions and northern fur seals. Personnel of the AEP also were invited to participate in the Pribilof Islands Collaborative (PIC) northern fur seal meetings during January and March. The PIC, which is a coalition of environmental groups, fishing industry members, and islanders, was established to promote a strong economy and healthy ecosystem in the Bering Sea. Program scientists presented an overview on the status and life history of northern fur seals as well as future research needs.

Field Work

As part of a continuing effort to understand the factors affecting survival of juvenile Steller sea lions, AEP scientists are preparing for their annual sea lion capture field work, which will begin in mid-April in Dutch Harbor, Alaska, aboard the Alaska Bureau of Wildlife Protection vessel Stimson. This year the cruise will be a joint effort between researchers from the National Marine Mammal Laboratory (NMML) and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game (ADF&G) As in previous years, satellite-linked dive recorders will be deployed on juveniles to monitor their movements and diving behaviors. Additionally, indices of condition and health will be assessed. These ongoing studies will continue to provide valuable information pertaining to the foraging ecology and physiology of juvenile Steller sea lions. Captures will be concentrated in the Central Aleutian Islands where there has been substantial industrial growth and changes in commercial fisheries. In the near future, readers can log onto to view an interactive map containing the most recent data resulting from the April cruise.

By Michelle Lander


California Current Ecosystems Program

Field Work

California sea lion pup. Photo by Tony Orr

Figure 1.  A California sea lion pup on San Miguel Island, California, fitted with a satellite transmitter and time-depth recorder in March 2005 for the study of the development of diving and foraging behaviors.  Photo by Tony Orr.

Program research activities focused on pinnipeds at San Miguel Island (SMI) to support the demographic and foraging studies on California sea lions and the marine mammal component of NOAA’s Ocean and Human Health Program.

To evaluate sea lion pup growth and health, 27 branded and 30 nonbranded pups were handled during 7-8 February 2005. Pups in the Adam’s Cove area of SMI were herded and held in a temporary enclosure to facilitate evaluation including recording of pup weight, standard length, girth, and sex. Blood samples and fecal swabs were collected from both branded and nonbranded pups. Blood samples were analyzed for packed cell volume (PCV), and fecal swabs were sent to laboratories to test for the presence of hookworm eggs and various harmful pathogens that can be transmitted to humans. Two pups were outfitted with time-depth recorders and satellite transmitters (Fig. 1 above), and fecal swabs obtained from 30 elephant seal pups were also sent to a lab for analysis.

From 17 to 29 March 2005, juvenile sea lions were sampled and instrumented for a study examining the development of diving and foraging behaviors of juvenile sea lions. One of the two pups instrumented in February was recaptured in March. Five additional pups were captured and instrumented, and blood and fur samples were taken. Blood and fur samples were also obtained from three yearlings and three juveniles (2-3 year olds). Fecal samples were collected from areas that were primarily inhabited by immature animals. Preliminary investigation of the telemetry data indicate that the pups are diving to depths of 40 to 110 m and making daily or multiple day trips to areas around the island (north and south) and to areas north of Santa Rosa Island.

By Jeff Laake


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