Oceana Seeks to Restore Protections for Endangered Steller Sea Lions - Oceana USA

Oceana Seeks to Restore Protections for Endangered Steller Sea Lions

Press Release Date: December 3, 2015

Location: Juneau, AK


Dustin Cranor, APR | email: dcranor@oceana.org | tel: 954.348.1314


Today Oceana and Greenpeace, represented by Earthjustice, filed an appeal in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals seeking to restore vital protections for the endangered Western Population of Steller sea lions. In 2013, the Ninth Circuit upheld measures the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) put in place to reduce competition between large-scale commercial fisheries and endangered Steller sea lions. In 2014, NMFS changed course and allowed additional fishing in areas in which the population of Steller sea lions continues to decline. The agency also authorized fishing for pollock in areas of critical habitat that had been closed for more than a decade. Despite the agency’s reversal, the lower court upheld the new, relaxed protections. Now conservation groups seek recourse in the Ninth Circuit.

The Western Population of Steller sea lions was first listed as endangered more than 20 years ago after plummeting to less than 20 percent of historical numbers. Initial threats to the population included directed shooting of sea lions. Now, sea lions compete with industrial fisheries that target important prey species. Each year, these fisheries remove billions of pounds of fish including Atka mackerel, Pacific cod and pollock from the same food web that Stellers depend on for survival. In the places with the least protection, such as the western Aleutian Islands, the Steller sea lion population continues to decline rapidly. 

Healthy ocean ecosystems can support sustainable fisheries and thriving communities. The Western Population of Steller sea lions’ continued failure to recover shows that there is much more to do to achieve this goal. 


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