Environmental Research Unit, PO Box 434, Stanley, Falkland Islands
SOUTHERN SEALIONSOtaria flavescens
Breeding Range: Falklands and South America
Length: Males: 2.5m Females: 2m
Weight: Males: 300kg Females: 130kg
Falklands Population: ~3,000 breeding females
World Population: ~100,000 breeding females
Southern Sealions are found in waters throughout the Falklands during the non-breeding season, but of the 93 breeding sites, only 11 are found on the main islands of East Falkland (8) and West Falkland (3). Sheltered rocky or boulder beaches are usually chosen for breeding. Adult males are much larger than females, and this is important since males compete for dominance at breeding sites. The largest and stongest bulls establish territories during early December while the females are still at sea. Females come ashore to pup in late December and early January. Two to three days after giving birth, females are mated by the dominant bull. The territories break up in February, although females with pups tend to remain close to the breeding site throughout the winter, with pups remaining dependent on the females for up to a year. Southern Sealions mainly feed on squid and fish, with octopus and and Lobster Krill also being taken.
The Falkland Islands have seen a massive decline in Southern Sealion over the last 60 years. In the 1930s the Falklands population stood at around 100,000 breeding females, but this has since reduced to just 3,000 breeding females. The initial decline was undoubtedly brought about by massive hunting of sealions for oil and skins, but this trade has now died out, and competition with commercial fisheries for squid and fish is the most likely cause over the last 20 years. Populations now appear to have levelled out at around 3,000 breeding females. Whilst the Falklands population crashed, populations across the water in Patagonia showed no such change. These populations have been stable since 1948.