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Valdivia, Chile

Bedrinana-Romano L.,Austral University of Chile | Bedrinana-Romano L.,NGO Centro Ballena Azul | Viddi F.A.,Austral University of Chile | Viddi F.A.,NGO Centro Ballena Azul | And 8 more authors.
Mammalian Biology | Year: 2014

The South American sea lion (Otaria byronia) (SSL) is a widespread opportunistic predator that inhabits waters ranging from Southern Ecuador to Southern Chile in the Pacific Ocean and from Southern Brazil to Southern Argentina in the Atlantic. SSL abundance estimates, as for many pinniped species, have relied on shore censuses, with the uncertainty that an indeterminate number of individuals at sea might remain uncounted. The proportion of the population that remains at sea during censuses and their distribution patterns are not clear and has been scarcely assessed. We used line transect sampling to gather information about at-sea abundance, density and spatial distribution of SSL in coastal waters off the Chilean Northern Patagonia. A total of 123 groups were sighted while on-effort, with an estimated density of 0.393 ind./km2 (95%CI=0.262-0.591) and a total abundance, for the surveyed area, of 13,721 individuals (95%CI=9127-20,627). Even when our survey was rather restricted in spatial range, generalized additive model results showed that depth, distance to SSL rockeries, coastline complexity and geographical coordinates had a significant influence on SSL spatial distribution. The results on abundance and spatial distribution of SSL at sea are discussed in terms of current population estimates. Our substantial at-sea abundance estimate suggests that shore censuses might have been historically biased. Several aspects should be taken into account in further research on SSL abundance, such as including pelagic waters and undertaking simultaneously on-rockery and marine SSL abundance estimates. The results presented here provide valuable insights for revisiting and possibly improve population estimates of SSL and other pinnipeds species worldwide. This is particularly relevant when management and conservation actions need to be taken on those species that have strong interactions with fisheries and aquaculture. © 2014 Deutsche Gesellschaft für Säugetierkunde.

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