Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures Final Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement
Analysis of the implementation of Steller sea lion protection measures to insure that groundfish fisheries off Alaska are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the western distinct population segment of Steller sea lions or destroy or adversely modify their designated critical habitat
The Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea Aleutian Islands groundfish fisheries have been managed under fishery management plans since 1978 and 1981, respectively. The range of the Steller sea lions overlaps the waters where the fisheries are conducted. Under the Endangered Species Act, Steller sea lions west of Cape Suckling, Alaska, are listed as endangered; east of Cape Suckling they are listed as threatened. In the core region from the Kenai Peninsula to Kiska Island, counts of adult and juvenile Steller sea lions have declined by about 80% since the population size was estimated in the late 1950s.
In 2000, a Biological Opinion prepared under Section 7 of the Endangered Species Act on all aspects of these fisheries concluded that fisheries for pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel, jeopardize the continued existence of Steller sea lions and adversely modify their critical habitat due to competition for prey and modification of their prey field. The fisheries must be modified and brought into compliance with all federal laws. Several alternative fisheries management proposals have been developed. Changes in management measures vary the degree and direction of impacts the fisheries have on marine mammals, seabirds, prohibited species, target fish species, and the marine habitat. The changes also have impacts on fishers, processors, and coastal communities. Enforcement considerations and management complexity are inextricably tied to regulations.
This SEIS evaluates alternatives to mitigate potential adverse effects as a result of competition for fish between Steller sea lions under a no action alternative as well as other alternatives that would substantially reconfigure these fisheries. Impacts are disclosed, both significantly positive and significantly negative as required by the National Environmental Policy Act. A biological opinion prepared according to the Endangered Species Act is included for the preferred alternative.