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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Estimation of Theoretical Population Levels for Natural Populations


The focus of this dissertation was the estimation of theoretical reference levels such as K, the environmental carrying capacity, and MNPL, the maximum net productivity level, for three fishes off Southern California and for the northern fur seal (Callorhinus ursinus) population of St. Paul Island, Alaska. The estimation techniques were based on computer modeling of historical population trends. The assessment of these theoretical reference levels for natural populations is fundamentally important to the development and testing of concepts in theoretical ecology and population dynamics.

In the first study, maximum-likelihood estimates of pre­-exploitation biomass were made for the white seabass (Atractoscion nobilis) and the yellowtail (Seriola Lalandei) by assuming that development of corresponding commercial fisheries led to a shift in size distributions of these fishes, as indicated by records of the Avalon Tuna Club, Santa Catalina Island, California. Pre­-exploitation biomass for Southern California populations of both these fishes was estimated to be about 20,000 tons. The pre­-exploitation biomass of the giant sea bass (Stereolepis gigas) was estimated to be 1300 tons. Due to insufficient natural history information, this estimate was based on commercial catch records only.

In the second study, estimates of theoretical reference levels for the northern fur seal population of St. Paul Island were based on computer simulations of pup production from 1912 to 1970. Repetitive simulations were used to construct frequency distributions of estimates for MNPL, K, the number of pups born at MNPL and K, and the ratio MNPL/K. These distributions serve as a measure of the confidence that can be placed in single estimates of reference levels, and thereby provide a general context within which these reference levels can be evaluated.

The final study of this dissertation investigated the pelagic migration of northern fur seal pups. Results indicated that initial migration paths for these pups are more widely dispersed that previously assumed. This information contributes to the understanding of northern fur seal life histories. A fuller understanding of life history information will eventually facilitate more accurate modeling of northern fur seal population dynamics.

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