New Zealand Journal of Ecology (2009) 33(2): 106-113

Foraging locations of female New Zealand sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri) from a declining colony

Research Article
B. Louise Chilvers  
  1. Aquatic and Threats Unit, Research and Development Group, Department of Conservation, PO Box 10420, Wellington 6143, New Zealand

Figure of Eight Island is located in the southern end of the Auckland Islands and hosts the smallest breeding colony of New Zealand (NZ) sea lions (Phocarctos hookeri). Between 1995/96 and 2005/06, pup production in this colony decreased by 57% (from 144 to 62 pups). In contrast, there was a 30% decrease in pup production in the largest colony in the north-east of the Auckland Islands over the same period. NZ sea lions in the Auckland Islands area are subject to by-catch deaths and resource competition from subantarctic trawl fisheries. The present study investigated where four lactating females from Figure of Eight Island foraged during the austral summer of 2007/08 and compared their foraging areas with female NZ sea lions from the northern Auckland Islands breeding locations (Enderby and Dundas islands) and with fisheries activities. Females foraged south of Adams Island (the southernmost Auckland Island), predominantly at the edge of the Auckland Islands shelf, but those from Figure of Eight Island made shorter foraging trips within more concentrated areas than females from Enderby or Dundas islands. The 59 female NZ sea lions satellite-tracked to date from Figure of Eight, Enderby and Dundas islands foraged over the entire area of the Auckland Islands shelf and many (including three of the four females from Figure of Eight Island) had extensive overlap with subantarctic trawl fisheries. Further research is needed to determine whether the foraging behaviour of females from Figure of Eight Island is linked to their greater decline in pup production.