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Keywords:

  • Eumetopias;
  • northern sea lion;
  • Shelikof Strait;
  • mortality;
  • commercial fishing

Abstract

The incidental catch of northern sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the walleye pollock (Theragra chalcogramma) joint-venture fishery in Shelikof Strait, Alaska, was studied during 1982–1984 to assess the nature and magnitude of the catch. Data were obtained by placing U.S. observers on foreign processing vessels. Dead sea lions recovered from trawl nets were counted, sexed and measured, teeth were removed for age determination by dental laminae; and stomach contents were analyzed. Although the fishery has continued to expand both in number of boats and estimated total catch (74,136 metric tons [t] in 1982 to 171,539 t in 1984), the estimated incidental catch of northern sea lions has declined (ranging from 958 to 1,436 in 1982, 216 to 324 in 1983 and 237 to 355 in 1984). Of the sea lions processed, 73 percent were caught between 2000 and 0500 h, probably during net retrieval. Most caught sea lions were females ranging in age from 1–25 yr with a mean age of 6.43 yr; 79 percent of the females were sexually mature and probably part of the reproducing population. Males had a mean age of 4.8 yr and only 12 percent were old enough to obtain and defend territories. Analysis of stomach contents showed that the sea lions consumed pollock the same size as that taken by the commercial fishery. The impact of the incidental catch on the Gulf of Alaska sea lion population is unknown.