Juneau, AK- Michael LeVine, Oceana’s Pacific Senior Counsel, issued the following statement in response to testifying to defend the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) decision to close some areas in the western Aleutian Islands to industrial fishing in order to help recover declining populations of endangered Steller sea lions:
“I testified today to serve as a voice for healthy oceans. It has been 20 years since the Western distinct population segment of Steller sea lions was first listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. Seventeen years ago, critical habitat was designated, and 11 years ago management measures were put in place to reduce the catches of groundfish in Steller sea lions’ critical habitat. Unfortunately, the population’s decline has not been stopped in all places, and the population is not recovering overall. NMFS’s actions to close areas where the population continues to decline are based on scientific and legal mandates designed to balance the commercial take of fish with the needs of native wildlife.
“Alaska is a state known for world-class fisheries. Much of our state’s economic strength comes from healthy and abundant fisheries that literally feed the world. If we start ignoring ecosystem indicators that are telling us we are fishing too hard or that our actions are negatively impacting the natural cycle, then the future of our great state is in trouble. We must manage our fisheries sustainably and for the future. The regulations set forth by NMFS are to ensure a balance of vibrant ecosystems and vibrant communities.
“Seattle-based factory trawlers catch the majority of the 4 billion pounds of fish caught a year. The fish harvested in Alaska is mostly shipped overseas for consumption. Furthermore, the Alaskan catch is often processed on these same Seattle factory trawlers, cutting Alaska processors out of the loop and reducing potential jobs and resources to local economies.
“Now is the time to look towards the future of the state’s ecosystem and economy and not the short-term profit margins of fishing companies. If an ecosystem is showing signs of breaking, like this one, then fisheries managers need to take the appropriate steps to fix it.”
Oceana is the largest international advocacy group working solely to protect the world’s oceans. Oceana wins policy victories for the oceans using science-based campaigns. Since 2001, we have protected over 1.2 million square miles of ocean and innumerable sea turtles, sharks, dolphins and other sea creatures. More than 500,000 supporters have already joined Oceana. Global in scope, Oceana has offices in North, South and Central America and Europe. To learn more, please visit www.oceana.org.