A 4500–Year Time-Series of Otariid Abundance on Sanak Island, Western Gulf of Alaska

Matthew W. Betts, Herbert D.C. Maschner and Veronica Lech

in Human Impacts on Seals, Sea Lions, and Sea Otters

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780520267268
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948976 | DOI:
A 4500–Year Time-Series of Otariid Abundance on Sanak Island, Western Gulf of Alaska

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Archaeological remains show that Steller sea lions and northern fur seals were crucially important to the subsistence strategies of most prehistoric Aleut. The hunting of otariids in the western Gulf of Alaska (GOA) was fundamentally disrupted by the insertion of Aleuts in the Russian fur trade in the eighteenth century and the subsequent entry of Aleut into the “world system.” This chapter investigates the history of changing otariid populations in the western GOA and discusses the methodological and theoretical issues necessary to interpret these shifts within a conservation biology framework. Specifically, it establishes a baseline record of shifting otariid abundance in the Western Gulf of Alaska and assesses it against changes in human behavior, otariid behavior, and climatic regimes. It also explores the use of zooarchaeological quantification techniques and related foraging theory for interpreting variability in the frequencies of prehistoric animal populations. This analysis is conducted on a high-resolution faunal record from the Sanak Island, on the western Gulf of Alaska, which spans approximately 4,500 years. The chapter also examines the relationship between otariid abundances and changes in palaeoclimate.

Keywords: Steller sea lions; northern fur seals; otariids; abundance; Sanak Island; Gulf of Mexico; palaeoclimate; conservation biology; human behavior; foraging

Chapter.  8857 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Zoology and Animal Sciences

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