Oceana supports the National Marine Fisheries Service’s interim final rule that addresses competition between commercial fisheries and endangered Steller sea lions in the western Aleutian Islands. By providing more food for sea lions in the western Aleutians, these measures should help stem the continued decline there. They, however, do not address ongoing problems in other parts of the sea lions’ range. These changes do not shut down fisheries, but they do reduce the catches of Atka mackerel and Pacific cod and close fishing in some important foraging habitat in the Aleutian Islands, where declines have been the most severe.
“NMFS took an important step forward today. The continued decline and failure to recover the western population of Steller sea lions shows that we must do more to ensure healthy ocean ecosystems that include sustainable fisheries and support vibrant communities,” according to Oceana Pacific Director, Susan Murray. “There is still work to be done, but NMFS made a firm commitment to help stop the decline of the Steller sea lion.”
The population of sea lions continues to decline in the far western Aleutian Islands and has not recovered in other areas. Scientists have said that the population’s continued low birth rate likely is caused by nutritional stress, or lack of food. Atka mackerel and Pacific cod are important food sources for Steller sea lions and are subject to heavy fishing pressure in the western Aleutians. In addition, in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea, pollock is caught in large numbers inside areas designated as critical habitat for the species.
“I hope this addresses the problem, but it seems clear that there is more to be done,” said Oceana Scientist, Jon Warrenchuk. “We know that fishing is having an effect on Steller sea lions, and we can’t keep pushing this problem off on future generations. These measures don't shut down fisheries, and we hope we never get to the place where that is necessary.”
The new measures reducing will go into effect for the 2011 fisheries
Oceana campaigns to protect and restore the world’s oceans. Our teams of marine scientists, economists, lawyers and advocates win specific and concrete policy changes to reduce pollution and to prevent the irreversible collapse of fish populations, marine mammals and other sea life. Global in scope and dedicated to conservation, Oceana has campaigners based in North America, Europe and South and Central America. More than 500,000 members and e-activists in over 150 countries have already joined Oceana. For more information, please visit www.Oceana.org.