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Keywords:

  • pinniped;
  • California sea lion;
  • Zalophus californianus;
  • diet;
  • correction factors;
  • Salmonidae;
  • variable reconstruction model

Abstract

We performed a captive feeding experiment using California sea lions to assess biases associated with estimating pinniped diet using scats and spews. Sea lions were fed nine of their natural prey species: anchovy, sardine, Pacific mackerel, jack mackerel, hake, steelhead smolts, shortbelly rockfish, pink salmon, and market squid. Recovery percentages varied among prey species using otoliths and were improved for adult salmon and sardine using the all-structure method. Numerical and graded length correction factors provided better estimates of number and size of prey consumed. Four models used to determine the proportions of prey species consumed by a sea lion population were tested. The all-structure method and variable biomass reconstruction model, in conjunction with numerical and graded length correction factors, provided more accurate estimates than without. We provide numerical correction factors for all prey species, including correction factors for specific salmon bones: vertebrae, branchials, radials, teeth, gill rakers, and hypurals.