Original Paper

Marine Biology

, Volume 160, Issue 1, pp 195-209

Population trends of Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus) with respect to remote sensing measures of chlorophyll-a in critical habitat

  • Michelle E. LanderAffiliated withNational Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA Email author 
  • , Lowell W. FritzAffiliated withNational Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA
  • , Devin S. JohnsonAffiliated withNational Marine Mammal Laboratory, Alaska Fisheries Science Center, National Marine Fisheries Service, NOAA
  • , Miles G. LogsdonAffiliated withSchool of Oceanography, University of Washington

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Abstract

The recovery plan for Steller sea lions (SSL; Eumetopias jubatus) suggests critical habitat should be enhanced to incorporate the spatio-temporal variation in dynamic oceanographic features that influence the prey and survival of SSL. It is necessary, therefore, to determine which features affect SSL. Demographics for sub-regions of the endangered, western stock of SSL were examined with respect to corresponding average, maximum, and variance of chlorophyll-a data (SeaWIFS), a proxy for primary productivity. Overall, SSL trends (2000–2008) and pup productivity (1999–2009) were related to maximum values of chl-a in critical habitat. Additionally, conditions in critical habitat appeared worse in areas of decline (i.e., dispersed patterns of chl-a hotspots and greater distances from SSL sites to productive areas). Although there may be a low feasibility of mitigating the effects of dynamic features on the recovery of SSL, the interactive effects of primary productivity and other stressors should be investigated for safeguarding their prey.