Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures
Several species targeted by the groundfish fisheries off Alaska are prey for Steller sea lions (e.g., pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel).
To protect Steller sea lions from potential competition for prey, NOAA Fisheries has closed areas around Steller sea lion rookeries and important haulouts to commercial fishing for prey species. In addition to conserving prey for Steller sea lions, the area closures reduce the potential for the fisheries to disrupt the sea lions’ normal behavior near their terrestrial habitat. When the stock biomass of a Steller sea lion prey species is low, additional controls are applied to the annual catch limits to ensure that prey remain available for sea lions. NOAA Fisheries has also imposed seasonal limits on catch of Steller sea lion prey and limits on catch of these species inside of Steller sea lion critical habitat.
With these protections in place, Steller sea lion populations are increasing in most of their range. Steller sea lion populations continue to decline in the western Aleutian Islands and are not increasing in the central Aleutian Islands. NOAA Fisheries has imposed additional catch limits for Steller sea lion prey in the western and central Aleutian Islands, in addition to the measures noted above, to ensure the fisheries are not likely to affect the potential for these declining populations to survive and recover.
The regulations to implement Steller sea lion protection measures, in conjunction with existing regulations, established harvest limits by sector, area, and season for the Atka mackerel, Pacific cod, and pollock fisheries in the Aleutian Islands. Each year, NOAA Fisheries publishes these harvest limits in the groundfish harvest specifications.
Steller sea lion protection measures are integrated throughout the regulations for the Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska at 50 CFR 679. The current Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures in the Alaska Groundfish Fisheries were implemented in 2003 (Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska) and 2015 (Aleutian Islands).
- Federal Register Rules and Notices
- 50 CFR 679 (also see Tables 4,5,6, and 12 and Figure 20)
- Analyses of actions to implement Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures
Areas closed to fishing to protect Steller sea lions and conserve prey
- Ninth Circuit Decision on the Appeal, August 2017 (PDF)
- Appellant's Reply Brief, July 2016 (PDF)
- Defendants' Appeal Response Brief, June 2016 (PDF)
- Plantiffis' Notice of Appeal, December 2015 (PDF)
- U.S. District Court Decision, August 2015 (PDF)
- Plaintiffs' Reply Brief in Support of Summary Judgment, June 2105 (PDF)
- Defendant-Intervenors' Principal Brief for Summary Judgment, May 2015 (PDF)
- Defendants' Memorandum in Opposition to Motion for Summary Judgment, May 2015 (PDF)
- Plaintiffs' Principal Brief on Summary Judgment, April 2015 (PDF)
- Groundfish Harvest Specifications
- Fishery Management Plans
- Steller Sea Lion Protection Measure Analyses
- Recovery Plan for the Steller Sea Lion
- Steller Sea Lion Species Profile
- Federal Fisheries in Alaska
NOAA Fisheries provides this Small Entity Compliance Guide to satisfy the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, which requires a plain language guide to assist small entities in complying with this rule. This synopsis provides a general overview as a public service. For exact regulatory language, please refer to the federal regulations at 50 CFR 679