Scientific Evaluation of the Distinctness of Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) in Iliamna Lake
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Scientific Evaluation of the Distinctness of Harbor Seals (Phoca vitulina) in Iliamna Lake

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    To be considered for listing under the ESA, a group of organisms must constitute a “species”, which according to the ESA includes “any subspecies of fish or wildlife or plants, and any distinct population segment of any species of vertebrate fish or wildlife which interbreeds when mature”. The harbor seals in Iliamna Lake are not scientifically recognized as a species or subspecies. Therefore, to assist in determining whether harbor seals in Iliamna Lake constitute a distinct population segment (DPS) under the ESA, NMFS convened a biological review team (BRT) composed of six marine mammal biologists to evaluate the scientific evidence, guided by the joint U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)-NMFS Policy Regarding the Recognition of Distinct Population Segments Under the Endangered Species Act. The BRT reviewed relevant background information about harbor seal biology, and scientific and local traditional knowledge specific to harbor seals in Iliamna Lake and nearby marine areas. A structured approach was used to score the BRT members’ judgment about the seal population’s discreteness and significance, which are the primary attributes of a DPS. This document is the BRT’s report to the NMFS Alaska Region in support of a DPS determination for harbor seals in Iliamna Lake, Alaska.
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