R. Lee Lyman has challenged our assertion that prehistoric hunting of marine mammals along the west coast of North America approximated a prehistoric tragedy of the commons in which highly ranked migratory sea lions and fur seals were reduced by overexploitation, necessitating pursuit of smaller, more elusive harbor seals and sea otters late in time. In response, we review alternative theoretical perspectives, rebut Lyman's characterization of marine mammal reproductive behaviors, reanalyze seal and sea lion NISP data from the California and Oregon coasts, and reinterpret three regional prehistories. Because migratory pinnipeds need to breed on land, are vulnerable to terrestrial predation when congregated in breeding colonies, and employ migration corridors thousands of kilometers in length, they were susceptible to overexploitation. In areas where rookeries persisted on remote islands and offshore rocks, sophisticated weaponry and watercraft were developed to facilitate pursuit of dwindling populations and more elusive taxa as part of intensive, socially complex maritime economies.



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