• Seasonal abundance and diversity of nearshore fishes around Steller sea lion haulouts of Kodiak Island

      Hegwer, Catherine L. (2003-12)
      Nearshore fishes around haulouts are potential prey for Steller sea lions, especially pups, as they learn to forage and supplement their milk diets during weaning. Visual surveys in July and November 2001, and March, May and July 2002 were used to quantify spatial and temporal variation in fish diversity and abundance around two Steller haulouts and two control sites. SCUBA divers sampled depths of 9, 15, 21, 27, and 33 m. Concurrent habitat surveys were used to quantify substrate, macroalga and benthic invertebrate cover. Steller haulout sites had fewer fish than control sites, but similar species richness and species composition at the 9, 15 and 21 m depths during the summer sampling periods. In winter, fish were fewer but more evenly distributed. Habitats were not significantly different between Steller haulouts and control sites. All sites had seasonal cover of canopy forming kelp, and overstory algal cover was heavy down to 21 m. At approximately 27 m the habitat changed abruptly from kelp-covered bedrock to bare gravel and shell hash. While nearshore fish are an important component of Steller diets, results from this study do not indicate that fish assemblages at haulouts are substantially different from other headland sites.