Conservation status

Most otariids were exploited by nineteenth-century sealers to some extent. Fur seals were exploited most heavily because their pelts, with guard hairs removed, were prized for clothing. Sea lions were taken mostly for oil, hides, vibrissae, and organs. After a very long lag time (50-60 years) fur seals are showing better recovery from sealing than sea lions, and at present seem to be thriving somewhat better. The most spectacular recovery was made by the Antarctic fur seal, which was once believed to be extinct and now numbers 3-4 million animals. All fur seals are presently increasing except the northern fur seal. This species recovered from nineteenth-century sealing and reached a peak in 1956, but has been declining ever since. Because the reason for this decline is unknown, there is as much concern for this species as there is for those that have smaller total numbers (Guadalupe, Juan Fernández, South American, subantarctic fur seals) but a good growth rate. The Galápagos fur seal recovered from sealing, but its total numbers appear to be limited now by periodic El Niño events that depress adult survival. The Galápagos, Juan Fernández, Guadalupe, and northern fur seal are all listed as Vulnerable by the IUCN.

Sea lions are harder to summarize. California and South American sea lions are increasing. The Galápagos sea lion

Galápagos fur seal (Arctocephalus galapagoensis) mother and pup. (Photo by Tui De Roy. Bruce Coleman, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

seems to be limited by El Niño events like Galápagos fur seals. Hooker's sea lions are of concern because, while never present in large numbers, they have been stable for 20 years and are facing competition with a squid fishery. The Steller sea lion has declined by more than 90% in the last 20 years and may be impacted by a commercial fishery. The Stellar sea lion is listed as Endangered, and Hooker's sea lion is Vulnerable.

jects of intense international trade, treaties, and even small wars. A more controlled form of trade continued until 1985 when the last commercial sealing ended. Since the 1970s otariids have been increasingly seen as competitors of commercial fishing operations, or a problem in fisheries bycatch. All pinnipeds are used as scapegoats to explain declining fisheries catches.

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