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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Seasonal abundance and distribution of marine mammals in the southern Strait of Georgia, British Columbia Keple, Alison Ruth


The Strait of Georgia is a highly productive region and among the most important marine systems in British Columbia. It is at the mouth of the Fraser River, one of the most productive river systems in North America. Marine mammals are apex predators in this system, with at least ten species using the area during all or part of the year. Line transect surveys aboard B.C. Ferries vessels were conducted from May 1, 2000 to April 30, 2001 to determine the distribution and abundance of marine mammal species in the Strait of Georgia. A total of 2,879 individuals, representing nine species, were seen in 898 sightings. Harbour seals (n = 1,629), California sea lions (n = 415), Dall's porpoise (n = 397) and Steller sea lions (n = 205) were the most frequently observed, accounting for 92% of the sightings. Pacific white-sided dolphins (n = 110), harbour porpoise (n = 71), killer whales (n = 49), gray whales (n = 2), and a minke whale were also seen during the surveys. Abundance estimates were highest in spring and lowest in winter, with a second smaller peak in abundance in autumn. Pinnipeds were estimated to consume the most prey due to high population estimates for harbour seals and large body size of adult male sea lions. Peaks in marine mammal abundances appear to coincide with seasonal physical and biological factors in the Strait of Georgia and Fraser River system that may influence the availability of prey species.

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