Research Document - 2006/068

Abundance of Northwest Atlantic hooded seals (1960 – 2005)

By Hammill, M.O., and G. Stenson

Abstract

A population model incorporating hooded seal pup production estimates since the 1980s, reproductive rates and human induced mortality (catches, by-catch in fishing gear and struck and lost) were used to estimate total abundance for the period 1965 - 2005. Pup production and total population size are affected by the type of pup production estimates that the model is fitted to. Using only pup production estimates from the Front, pup production in 2005 was 107,900 (SE=18,800; 95% C.I.=70,600-143,300) for a total population of 535,800 (SE=93,600; 95% C.I.=350,600-711,300). Fitting to pup production estimates from all herds and making assumptions about numbers of hooded seals in the Davis Strait herd for years, when this area was not included in the survey program, results in pup production estimates of 120,100 (SE=13,800; 95% CI=94,100-147,900) and an estimated total population of 593,500 (SE=67,200; 95% C.I.=465,600-728,300). There is considerable uncertainty associated with these estimates which results from a lack of understanding of the relationship between the Davis Strait, Front and Gulf pupping areas, few surveys of all three areas, limited reproductive data and uncertain harvest statistics. Under the Objective Based Fisheries Management plan, hooded seals are considered ‘Data Poor’, with harvests being set using conservative methods. Recommended harvests are 27,400-32,100 animals.

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