Photo: Jason Waite,
Alaska SeaLife Center
(PLEASE NOTE: These web pages are for archival purposes only and
are no longer maintained. For current information on Steller sea lion research at the AFSC visit the National
Marine Mammal Lab's Alaska Ecosystems Program.)
The listing of the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias
jubatus) as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act in 1990 created new challenges for fisheries managers in the National Marine Fisheries Service and the North Pacific
Fisheries Management Council. Managers must balance between two
sometimes conflicting objectives: protecting and aiding the recovery of the
Steller sea lion under the Endangered Species Act while at the same time providing for sustainable and economically viable fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Groundfish fisheries in the Gulf
of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands, some
of the largest and most valuable in the world,
operate in a large portion of the Steller sea lionís
distribution and target some of the same species
that form a large part of the sea lionís diet.
However, there are many other factors besides
fisheries that could be affecting survival and
birth rates of Steller sea lions. During the
period that Steller sea lions have been declining,
there have been large changes in the climate of
the North Pacific ocean that may have altered the
distribution and recruitment of fish stocks upon
which sea lions feed. Pollutants and
could also be interfering with sea lion growth or
reproduction. Killer whales and other predators
could be feeding more on sea lions than in the
past. And there is always the possibility that
interactions, such as undocumented
illegal shooting, could be higher than we think.
Rookeries are protected by fishery closures and
> No pollock fishing is allowed
within 10-20 nautical miles of 75 haulouts.
> Fishing is controlled in part of sea lion critical habitat.
> Critical habitat in the Aleutian Islands is closed to pollock fishing.
For these reasons, NMFS is engaged in
management activities to insure that our current
groundfish fisheries are not adversely affecting
Steller sea lions or impeding their recovery, and
research activities to understand why the
population continues to decline. The North Pacific
ecosystem in which Steller sea lions are a part is
complex, large, and at times, inhospitable. Many
of the issues raised in addressing management and
research questions also appear to be intractable.
Despite these obstacles, NMFS and our management
and research partners are vigorously pursuing
answers to these questions so that groundfish
fisheries and Steller sea lions can coexist in the
North Pacific ocean. As part of this effort, the
Alaska Fisheries Science Center is administering
the Steller Sea
Lion Coordinated Research Program, which
consists of more than 150 research projects
conducted on Steller sea lions at institutions
throughout the world.