• morthern sea lion;
  • Eumetopias judatus;
  • population dynamics;
  • Alaska;
  • fecundity rates;
  • life table

Abstract: Populations of northern sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) in the vicinity of Marmot Island, Alaska declined during 1975–1985 at about 5% per year (Merrick et al. 1987). The cause of this decline is not known. A life table for the northern sea lion was calculated assuming that life spans follow a Weibull distribution. Samples of northern sea lions taken in the vicinity of Marmot Island, Alaska during 1975–1978 and 1985–1986 indicate that the average age of females older than 3 yr increased about 1.55 yr (SD = 0.35 yr) while the population was declining at about 5% per year. Fecundity rates decreased by 10% over the same period, but the decrease was not statistically significant (Calkins and Goodwin 1988). Possible causes of the population decline and the change in age structure were examined by writing the Leslie matrix population equation in terms of changes in juvenile and adult survival rates and fecundity, and examining the short–term behavior of the trajectories of the average age of adult females, total number of females, and total number of pups with respect to those changes in the vital parameters. From the observed rate of declines of adults and the changes in average age of adult females and fecundity, estimates of the changes in adult and juvenile survival were calculated; estimates of the standard deviations of these changes were estimated via a bootstrap procedure. One purpose of this exercise is to aid in setting priorities for research for determining the cause of the decline. An explanation for the observed declines in numbers of adult sea lions consistent with the observed fecundity rates, a rate of decrease of 5% in the number of adults, and the corresponding increase in average age (of females age 3 yr and older) was a 10%–20% decrease in the survival of juveniles (age 0-3 yr) coupled with an insignificant change in adult survival (0.03%, SD = 1%).