Pup numbers of the Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) at The Page Islands, South Australia, over two decades
Shaughnessy, PD and Goldsworthy, SD and Burch, P and Dennis, TE, Pup numbers of the Australian sea lion (Neophoca cinerea) at The Page Islands, South Australia, over two decades, Australian Journal of Zoology, 61, (2) pp. 112-118. ISSN 0004-959X (2013) [Refereed Article]
The Australian sea lion is an Australian endemic, restricted to South Australia and Western Australia, with 86% of the population in South Australia. It was listed under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act as Vulnerable in February 2005, and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature has listed it as Endangered. Sea lions are taken as bycatch in the gill-net fishery for school shark and gummy shark, and the risk of extinction of breeding colonies is high even from low levels of bycatch. We assessed trends in pup population size at The Pages Islands, a large breeding colony in South Australia. Pup abundance was estimated by direct counting of live and dead pups; the maximum count in each breeding season was used for trend analysis. The average of direct counts of pups in 14 breeding seasons between 1989–90 and 2009–10 was 473 (s.d. = 58.4). There was no trend in pup numbers, contrasting with two other large colonies: Seal Bay, Kangaroo Island (decreasing), and Dangerous Reef (increasing since 2000). The Australian Sea Lion Management Strategy of the Australian Fisheries Management Authority aims to reduce sea lion bycatch in the shark fishery; a key item is a fishery closure around each breeding colony in South Australia. Implementation of the closure around The Pages should lower the risk of bycatch of its sea lions with foraging areas that previously overlapped with the fishery and should allow the colony’s population size to increase.