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Alaska marine mammal stock assessments, 2015

Preface

On 30 April 1994, Public Law 103-238 was enacted allowing significant changes to provisions within the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). Interactions between marine mammals and commercial fisheries are addressed under three new sections. This new regime replaced the interim exemption that has regulated fisheries- related incidental takes since 1988. Section 117, Stock Assessments, required the establishment of three regional scientific review groups to advise and report on the status of marine mammal stocks within Alaska waters, along the Pacific Coast (including Hawaii), and the Atlantic Coast (including the Gulf of Mexico). This report provides information on the marine mammal stocks of Alaska under the jurisdiction of the National Marine Fisheries Service.

Each stock assessment includes, when available, a description of the stock’s geographic range, a minimum population estimate, current population trends, current and maximum net productivity rates, optimum sustainable population levels and allowable removal levels, and estimates of annual human-caused mortality and serious injury through interactions with commercial fisheries and subsistence hunters. These data will be used to evaluate the progress of each fishery towards achieving the MMPA’s goal of zero fishery-related mortality and serious injury of marine mammals. The Stock Assessment Reports should be considered working documents, as they are updated as new information becomes available. The Alaska Stock Assessment Reports were originally developed in 1995 (Small and DeMaster 1995). Revisions have been published for the following years: 1996 (Hill et al. 1997), 1998 (Hill and DeMaster 1998), 1999 (Hill and DeMaster 1999), 2000 (Ferrero et al. 2000), 2001 (Angliss et al. 2001), 2002 (Angliss and Lodge 2002), 2003 (Angliss and Lodge 2004), 2005 (Angliss and Outlaw 2005), 2006 (Angliss and Outlaw 2007), 2007 (Angliss and Outlaw 2008), 2008 (Angliss and Allen 2009), 2009 (Allen and Angliss 2010), 2010 (Allen and Angliss 2011), 2011 (Allen and Angliss 2012), 2012 (Allen and Angliss 2013), 2013 (Allen and Angliss 2014), and 2014 (Allen and Angliss 2015). Each Stock Assessment Report is designed to stand alone and is updated as new information becomes available. The MMPA requires Stock Assessment Reports to be reviewed annually for stocks designated as strategic, annually for stocks where there is significant new information available, and at least once every 3 years for all other stocks. New information for all strategic stocks (Steller sea lions, northern fur seals, bearded seals, ringed seals, Cook Inlet beluga whales, AT1 Transient killer whales, harbor porpoise, sperm whales, humpback whales, fin whales, North Pacific right whales, and bowhead whales) was reviewed in 2014-2015. This review, and a review of other stocks, led to the revision of the following stock assessments for the 2015 document: Western U.S. Steller sea lions; northern fur seals; Aleutian Islands, Pribilof Islands, Bristol Bay, North Kodiak, South Kodiak, Prince William Sound, Cook Inlet/Shelikof Strait, Glacier Bay/Icy Strait, Lynn Canal/Stephens Passage, Sitka/Chatham Strait, Dixon/Cape Decision, and Clarence Strait stocks of harbor seals; bearded seals; ringed seals; ribbon seals; Cook Inlet beluga whales; AT1 Transient killer whales; Pacific white-sided dolphins; Southeast Alaska, Gulf of Alaska, and Bering Sea stocks of harbor porpoise; Dall’s porpoise; sperm whales; Western North Pacific and Central North Pacific stocks of humpback whales; fin whales; minke whales; North Pacific right whales; and bowhead whales. The Stock Assessment Reports for all stocks, however, are included in this document to provide a complete reference. Those sections of each Stock Assessment Report containing significant changes are listed in Appendix Table 1. The authors solicit any new information or comments which would improve future Stock Assessment Reports.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) has management authority for polar bears, sea otters, and walrus. Copies of the stock assessments for these species are included in the final NMFS Stock Assessment Report for your convenience.

Ideas and comments from the Alaska Scientific Review Group (SRG) have significantly improved this document from its draft form. The authors wish to express their gratitude for the thorough reviews and helpful guidance provided by the Alaska Scientific Review Group members: Karl Haflinger, Lloyd Lowry (Chair from 2012 to present), Beth Mathews, Craig Matkin, Mike Miller, Grey Pendleton, Robert Small, Kate Stafford, Robert Suydam, David Tallmon, and Kate Wynne. We would also like to acknowledge the contributions from the Communications Program of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center.

The information contained within the individual Stock Assessment Reports stems from a variety of sources. Where feasible, we have attempted to utilize only published material. When citing information contained in this document, authors are reminded to cite the original publications, when possible.


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