Knowing where pinnipeds forage is vital to managing and protecting their populations, and for assessing potential interactions with fisheries. We assessed the spatial relationship between the seasonal distribution of Pacific harbor seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) outfitted with satellite transmitters and the seasonal distributions of potential harbor seal prey species in San Francisco Bay, California. Pearson's correlation coefficients were calculated between the number of harbor seal locations in an area of the San Francisco Bay and the abundance of specific prey species in the same area. The influence of scale on the analyses was assessed by varying the scale of analysis from 1 to 10 km. There was consistency in the prey species targeted by harbor seals year-round, although there were seasonal differences between the most important prey species. The highest correlations between harbor seals and their prey were found for seasonally abundant benthic species, located within about 10 km of the primary haul-out site. Probable foraging habitat for harbor seals was identified, based on areas with high abundances of prey species that were strongly correlated with harbor seal distribution. With comparable local data inputs, this approach has potential application to pinniped management in other areas, and to decisions about the location of marine reserves designed to protect these species.
Spatial and Seasonal Relationships Between Pacific Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) and their Prey, at Multiple Scales
Grigg, E.; Klimley, A.; Allen, S.; Green, D.; Elliott-Fisk, D.; Markowitz, H. (2009). Spatial and Seasonal Relationships Between Pacific Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina richardii) and their Prey, at Multiple Scales. Fishery Bulletin, 107(3), 359.