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Keywords:

  • Pacific walrus;
  • Odobenus rosmarus divergens;
  • harvest;
  • age structure;
  • productivity

Abstract

Pacific walruses (Odobenus rosmarus divergens) are harvested by subsistence hunters in Alaska as they migrate north through the Bering Strait in the spring. Harvest records and biological specimens have been collected from the Bering Strait communities of Little Diomede, Gambell, and Savoonga since the 1950s. Harvest levels in the Bering Strait region peaked in the late 1980s and declined thereafter; however, there was considerable variation in the size and composition of the harvests among communities and over time. The relationships among characteristics of the community harvests and the presence of temporal trends were investigated using generalized linear models. The proportion of females in the catch increased over time in all three communities, while the proportion pregnant among harvested females declined over the range of sample years. The ages of harvested walruses increased over time in all three communities through the 1980s, after which trends in age stabilized or began to decline. The age of first reproduction was significantly older for females sampled in 1975–1985 than for females sampled between 1952 and 1962 or 1992 and 1998. Factors thought to have influenced the size and composition of the catch over the past 50 yr include hunter preferences, harvest management regimes, environmental conditions, and changes in the population itself.