Threats to Steller Sea Lions
The Western population of Steller sea lions is only a fraction of what it was in the 1950s. The rapid decline of this top ocean predator can be attributed in part to the removal of its prey by Alaska’s large industrial fishing fleet, which predominantly harvests Atka mackerel, Pacific cod, and Pollock, and to the past direct killing of Steller sea lions by indiscriminant shooting, bounties, and entanglement in fishing gear. While the shootings have largely stopped, the sea lion population has still not recovered; industrial fisheries continue to remove more than four billion pounds of fish from the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska ecosystems each year. In order to recover the western stock of Steller sea lions, we need a new fishery management system that will account for the needs of top predators like the Steller sea lion when setting commercial fishing annual catch limits.