Sea otters in Alaska are recognized as a single subspecies (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) and currently managed as a single, interbreeding population. However, geographic and behavioral mechanisms undoubtably constrain sea otter movements on much smaller scales. This paper applies the phylogeographic method (Dizon et al. 1992) and considers distribution, population response, phenotype and genotype data to identify stocks of sea otters within Alaska. The evidence for separate stock identity is genotypic (all stocks), phenotypic (Southcentral and Southwest stocks), and geographic distribution (Southeast stock), whereas population response data are equivocal (all stocks). Differences in genotype frequencies and the presence of unique genotypes among areas indicate restricted gene flow. Genetic exchange may be limited by little or no movement across proposed stock boundaries and discontinuities in distribution at proposed stock boundaries. Skull size differences (phenotypic) between Southwest and Southcentral Alaska populations further support stock separation. Population response information was equivocal in either supporting or refuting stock identity. On the basis of this review, we suggest the following: (1) a Southeast stock extending from Dixon Entrance to Cape Yakataga; (2) a Southcentral stock extending from Cape Yakataga to Cape Douglas including Prince William Sound and Kenai peninsula coast; and (3) a Southwest stock including Alaska Peninsula coast, the Aleutians to Attu Island, Barren, Kodiak, Pribilof Islands, and Bristol Bay.
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Stock structure of sea otters (Enhydra lutris kenyoni) in Alaska