Biological Assessment of the Effects of the Federal Fisheries, State Parallel Groundfish Fisheries and Pacific Halibut Fisheries on the Southwest Distinct Population Segment of the Northern Sea Otter and Its Designated Critical Habitat

June 01, 2013

Informal consultation with the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service to evaluate the effects of the following Alaska fisheries on the southwest distinct population segment of the northern sea otter: federal groundfish fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands; federal king and Tanner crab fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; federal scallop fisheries; and the State parallel groundfish fisheries.

Alaska has three populations of sea otters. The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) listed one of these populations, the southwest distinct population segment (SWDPS) of the northern sea otters, as threatened under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 2005. All federal actions that may affect listed species under the ESA, including management of the Alaska fisheries, must be reviewed under section 7(a)(2) of the ESA. In doing so, each federal agency must insure that its actions are not likely to jeopardize the existence of threatened or endangered species or destroy or adversely modify their designated critical habitat.

In 2006, NOAA Fisheries engaged in informal consultation with the USFWS to evaluate the effects of the following Alaska fisheries on the SWDPS of the northern sea otter: federal groundfish fisheries in the Gulf of Alaska, Bering Sea, and Aleutian Islands; federal king and Tanner crab fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands; federal scallop fisheries; and the State parallel groundfish fisheries. This consultation was concluded in May 2006, with a determination that incidental take of the SWDPS of the northern sea otter was discountable, and that the fisheries were not likely to adversely affect the SWDPS of the northern sea otter. In 2009, the USFWS designated critical habitat for the SWDPS of the northern sea otter (74 FR 51988, October 8, 2009). In response to this designation, NOAA Fisheries reinitiated Section 7 consultation. The biological assessment evaluated the potential effect of the following FMPs on the SWDPS of the northern sea otter and its critical habitat: BSAI Groundfish, GOA Groundfish, BSAI Crab, Scallop, and Salmon, as well as the halibut fisheries in U.S. Convention waters off Alaska. The analysis concluded that the Alaska federally managed fisheries authorized by the fishery management plans and State of Alaska parallel groundfish fisheries and halibut fisheries in U.S. Convention waters off Alaska are not likely to adversely affect the SWDPS of the northern sea otter or its designated critical habitat. On July 10, 2013, the USFWS concurred with NOAA Fisheries determination that authorization of the specified fisheries is not likely to adversely affect the SWDPS of the northern sea otter and will not result in adverse modification of sea otter critical habitat.

Last updated by Alaska Regional Office on 04/23/2019

Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Groundfish Analyses Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Analyses