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    Marine Mammals

    ECO staff and collaborators travel to Walrus Island conducting Steller sea lion research as a part of the NOAA funded Steller sea lion Biosampling Program.

    ECO staff and collaborators travel to Walrus Island conducting Steller sea lion research as a part of the NOAA funded Steller sea lion Biosampling Program.

    The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island–Tribal Government (ACSPI), a federally recognized Alaskan Native Tribe, works towards the conservation and co-management of northern fur seals and Steller sea lions as stated in the Cooperative Agreement between the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island and the National Marine Fisheries Service, signed in June of 2000.  The activities conducted in fulfillment of the cooperative agreement also address specific priority Actions in the Northern Fur Seal Conservation Plan and Recovery Actions in the Steller Sea Lion Recovery Plan. Island Sentinel marine mammal research and monitoring activities are conducted under authorization of NMFS Permit No. 14330-01.

    The local marine mammal monitoring data that are collected on St. Paul Island and archived in the BeringWatch database include:

    1)    General observations of marine mammals and threats to marine mammals (e.g. opportunistic observations of various cetacean or pinniped species, entangled or injured marine mammals, threatening presence of oil, rats, or marine debris);

    2)    Steller sea lion haulout surveys;

    3)    Northern fur seal breeding season surveys;

    4)    Harbor seal haulout surveys;

    5)    Northern fur seal subsistence harvest monitoring; and

    6)    Steller sea lion subsistence harvest monitoring.

    As a part of the Island Sentinel (Tanam Amgig^naa) Division activities, Ecosystem Conservation Office (ECO) project staff monitor and observe the shoreline of St. Paul Island year round for unnatural changes and disturbances, for natural changes and processes, and to monitor fur seal rookeries and haulouts to enforce Tribal and Federal regulations regarding trespass and marine mammal disturbance. Data are collected and entered into Island Sentinel/BeringWatch database in accordance with established Island Sentinel/BeringWatch procedures and observation protocols that have been developed for specific observation programs. The Island Sentinel/BeringWatch Program on the Pribilof Islands, Alaska is a community-based monitoring program implemented in a partnership between the Tribal Government of St. Paul Island, St. George Traditional Council, and Community & Ecology Resources, LLC. Community-based observations such as these, when analyzed over long time periods (e.g. 10-20 years) are likely to provide valuable records of specific species responses to environmental variables such as climate change.

    Island Sentinels scan for entangled northern fur seals on St. Paul Island, Alaska.

    Island Sentinels scan for entangled northern fur seals on St. Paul Island, Alaska.

    Although we attempt to record counts of all species of marine mammal (as well as all other opportunistic encounters), priority is given to the following focal species: fur seals, Steller sea lions and harbor seals.  Each of these species are visibly distinct, lending themselves to visual surveys (minimizing identification error), and occur in sufficient numbers on St. Paul Island to be useful for annual trend analyses at multiple sites on the island.

    In addition to the specific data collection efforts above, the following co-management monitoring activities are also recorded in the BeringWatch database:

    1)    Posting and removal of fur seal rookery closure signs;

    2)    Nightly fur seal rookery patrols; and

    3)    Fur seal rookery patrols when tourists from cruise ships are present.