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Steller sea-lion (Western DPS)

The western population of the Steller sea-lion (Eumetopias jubatus) occurs exclusively in Alaska where it is threatened by unsustainable commercial fisheries [1]. As its food supply has dwindled, the sea-lion has spiraled toward extinction. It declined in every population census between the 1970s and 2000 [2]. It was placed on the threatened species in 1990 under an emergency rule [3]. A recovery plan was prepared in 1992 [1]; critical habitat was designated in 1993 [4]. It was uplisted to endangered in 1997 due to continued declines [5].

The Steller sea-lion's population declined steadily from 32,000 animals in 1989 to 18,325 in 2000 [2, 6]. Due to conservationist lawsuits, however, a series of extensive fishing restrictions were put in place between 1998 and 2000 to protect the sea-lion's critical habitat area [2]. The population subsequently increased for the first time since the 1970s to 19,340 in 2002 and 20,600 in 2004 [2, 6]. Though the species is still gravely endangered and well below the 30,525 animals that existed at the time of its listing in 1990, it appears to be on the rebound due to conservation efforts. Whether that trend will continue depends on continued and increased fishing reforms.

[1] National Marine Fisheries Service. 1992. Recovery Plan for the Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus). Silver Springs, MD.
[2] National Marine Fisheries Service. 2003. Supplement to the Endangered Species Act Section 7 Consultation Biological Opinion and Incidental Take Statement of October 2001 (concerning effect of Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea/Aleutian Island fishing on Steller sea lions). Seattle, WA, June 19, 2003.
[3] National Marine Fisheries Service. 1990. Emergency Listing of the Steller Sea Lion. April 10, 1990 (55 FR 13488).
[4] National Marine Fisheries Service. 1993. Designated Critical Habitat; Steller Sea Lion. August 27, 1993 (58 FR 45269).
[5] National Marine Fisheries Service. 1997. Change in listing status of Steller sea lions under the Endangered Species Act. May 5, 1997 (62 FR 24345).
[6] Fritz, L. 2004. Western Steller Sea Lion Aerial Survey Results, June 2004. National Marine Fisheries Service, Seattle, WA, September 22, 2004. http://nmml.afsc.noaa.gov/AlaskaEcosystems/sslhome/survey2004.htm

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