Sea duck harvest occurs throughout North America, largely along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts, but also in inland waters including the Great Lakes and major waterways. Sea ducks are also important as a subsistence food in northern communities of Alaska and Canada. Sea duck sport harvest has generally been considered sustainable because of relatively low hunting pressure compared to other ducks and geese. However, interest in sport hunting of sea ducks has recently increased, particularly along the U.S. Atlantic coast and in the Great Lakes. Sea ducks pose special challenges to waterfowl managers because of considerable uncertainties in the level of harvest and the paucity of information about sea duck biology.
In response to questions about the sustainability of harvest, the Sea Duck Joint Venture (SDJV) and partners initiated a sea duck harvest assessment using existing information about sea duck biology and the number of sea ducks taken by sport and subsistence hunters, recognizing that significant uncertainty exists and that estimates of survival and fecundity are unknown for some populations. As a first step in the assessment, a report was completed in March 2016 that examines the effect of uncertainty in estimates of abundance and other biological parameters used to model the level and sustainability of harvest for a suite of 6 species or populations. The intent of this analysis was to provide initial guidance to the SDJV to identify what research and monitoring would most help inform harvest management.
Note that the SDJV does not take an active role in harvest management of sea ducks – that role is left to the flyways through the state, provincial, federal, management and co-management authorities in the U.S. and Canada.