Fish serve as intermediate hosts for a number of larval parasites that have the potential of maturing in marine mammals such as Steller sea lions (Eumetopias jubatus). We examined the prevalence of parasites from 229 fish collected between March and July 2002 near two islands used by Steller sea lions in Southeast Alaska and island habitats in the Aleutian Islands. Sea lion populations have remained steady in Southeast Alaska but have been declining over the last 30 yr in the Aleutian Islands. Even though the fish samples near the Southeast Alaska haulouts were composed of numerous small species of fish and the Aleutian Islands catch was dominated by juveniles of commercially harvested species, the parasite fauna was similar at all locations. Eleven of the 20 parasite taxa identified were in their larval stage in the fish hosts, several of which have been described from mammalian final hosts. Four species of parasite were more prevalent in Southeast Alaska fish samples, and seven parasite species, including several larval forms capable of infecting marine mammals, were more prevalent in fish from the Aleutian Islands. Nevertheless, parasites available to Steller sea lions from common fish prey are not likely to be a major factor in the decline of this marine mammal species.
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Vol. 43 • No. 3