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NOAA proposes removing eastern Steller sea lions from endangered species list

July 12, 2007, taken during research conducted by Alaska Department of Fish and Game under NMFS Permit #358-1888.

July 12, 2007, taken during research conducted by Alaska Department of Fish and Game under NMFS Permit #358-1888.

PHOTO: Jamie King, ADFG

Agency seeks public comment
 
Juneau, AK – NOAA is proposing to remove the eastern Steller sea lion, currently deemed “threatened,” from the list of endangered wildlife, after a status review by its biologists found the species is recovering sufficiently.
       
“This proposal reflects the continued recovery of the eastern population of Steller sea lions and the strong conservation partnership among NOAA Fisheries, the states, the fishing industry, and other stakeholders,” said NOAA’s Fisheries Service Alaska Regional Administrator Jim Balsiger.
       
NOAA Fisheries began a draft status review of the eastern population, which ranges from Alaska’s Cape Suckling to California’s Channel Islands, in June 2010, and opened a 60-day public comment period. Within a few days, NOAA received two petitions, one from the states of Washington and Oregon, and the other from the state of Alaska, asking that the eastern Steller sea lion be removed from threatened status under the Endangered Species Act. 
       
The draft status review, which was completed in March 2012, shows the eastern Steller sea lion population has met the recovery criteria outlined in the recovery plan, which was developed by NOAA Fisheries in 1992 and revised in 2008. 
       
There were approximately 34,000 eastern Steller sea lions in 1997, when the eastern and western stocks were found to be genetically different from each other. Estimates in 2010 put the eastern population at about 70,000. 
       
The western stock, which ranges from Alaska as far as the Russian Pacific coast, will retain its endangered status.
       
Steller sea lions were first added to the endangered species list in 1990 because of steep declines in their population, largely the result of indiscriminate shooting by people who felt the sea lions were competing for available fish. Through education and outreach, the shooting has mostly stopped. 
       
With the decrease in shootings, increased public awareness, laws protecting the sea lion, and improved population survey data, scientists now believe the eastern population actually has been increasing at an average rate of 4.3 percent each year since the late 1970s. 
       
 
NOAA seeks public comment on the proposal to delist the eastern population. The 60-day comment period begins today. After the public comment period closes June 18, 2012, comments will be evaluated. A final decision on whether to delist will be made within one year of publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register. If the agency proceeds with a delisting, NOAA will issue a post-delisting monitoring plan to guide monitoring activities for the eastern Steller sea lions for the next 10 years. 
       
The comment period will allow the public to give their views on the proposed delisting, the draft status review, and the draft post-delisting monitoring plan, which are all available at http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov.
       
Send comments to Jon Kurland, Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, Alaska Region, NOAA Fisheries, Attn: Ellen Sebastian. You may submit comments, identified by RIN 0648-BB41, by any of the following methods:
 
* Electronic Submissions: Submit through http://www.regulations.gov
* Hand-delivery: Juneau Federal Building, 709 West 9th Street, Room 420A, Juneau
* Mail: P.O. Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802.
* Fax: 907-586–7557
 
For more information, contact: Dana Seagars, Alaska Region, 907-271-5005; Jon Kurland, Alaska Region, 907-586-7235; or Lisa Manning, NOAA Fisheries Office of Protected Resources, 301-427-8466.
 
On the web:
 
Eastern steller sea lion recovery plan: 
http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/stellers/recovery/sslrpfinalrev030408.pdf
 
Status review:
http://alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/protectedresources/stellers/edps/status.htm
 
NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources. Join us on Facebook , Twitter and our other social media channels. To learn more about NOAA Fisheries in Alaska, visit alaskafisheries.noaa.gov or www.afsc.noaa.gov.

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