Subject: sea lion:Western stock of Steller sea lions reclassified (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Sun, 4 May 1997 09:29:08 -0400 (EDT)

J. Michael Williamson
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
   Wheelock College, 200 The Riverway, Boston, MA 02215
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.734.8666, or 617.566.7369

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Fri, 2 May 1997 11:40:56 -0400
From: Robyn Angliss <>
Reply-To: Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Subject: Western stock of Steller sea lions reclassified

     NMFS press release issued April 30, 1997:



     Based on biological information collected since the Steller sea
     lion was listed as "threatened" under the Endangered Species Act in
     1990, the National Marine Fisheries Service is reclassifying a
     population of Steller sea lions found in most of Alaska as
     "endangered," the agency announced today.

     The fisheries service will classify Steller sea lions in two
     distinct populations separated at a line near Cape Suckling, Alaska
     (144 degrees west longitude), with the western population classified
     as endangered and the eastern population (southeastern Alaska to
     California) remaining classified as threatened.

     The reclassification is necessary because the number of Stellers in
     the western population has continued to decline since the 1990
     classification of threatened.  For instance, since 1994, the number of
     juvenile and adult Stellers has dropped by 18 percent in the Gulf of
     Alaska population alone.  Pup counts at Alaska's largest rookeries
     fell by 40 percent between 1991-1994.  Using current population
     models, fisheries service biologists predict there is nearly a 100
     percent chance the western Steller sea lion population will be extinct
     in the next 65 to 100 years.

     "Based on the best available scientific and commercial information
     available from independent groups and within the agency, reclassifying
     the western Steller sea lion as endangered is the right move," said
     Rollie Schmitten, director of the National Marine Fisheries Service.
     "Not only does the reclassification more accurately reflect the status
     of the western Steller population, but we will be able to protect and
     conserve the species more effectively by managing the two populations
     through individual population trends without losing sight of the
     overall trend for the species."

     "Given our current knowledge of prey availability, competition for
     food, and the effects of human disturbance, it would be difficult to
     identify whether any further management actions are needed beyond
     those already in place," added Schmitten.

     Commercial fishing operations in the western population area that
     are likely to affect Steller sea lions may have to reconsult with the
     fisheries service under section 7 of the Endangered Species Act.
     However, the fisheries service believes it is premature to propose
     additions or changes to the Steller sea lion protective measures.

     "Fishing in the western population area will continue under the
     current management measures as we develop and conduct experiments to
     reexamine how Stellers may interact with these fishing operations.
     Once we better determine the entire scope of the interaction, we will
     better know if any additional management actions are required to
     reduce impacts to Stellers," said Schmitten.

     To improve scientific and management data, the agency is organizing
     a workshop of outside experts in the coming year to design an
     experiment for assessing how well fishing area closure zones will
     benefit Steller sea lions without unnecessarily restricting the
     commercial fishing fleet.  The agency will also prepare updated stock
     assessments that reexamine the estimated mortality rates incidental to
     commercial fisheries, and consider the next steps, if necessary,
     toward take reduction.  In addition, the fisheries service will review
     the ongoing Steller sea lion program and look at developing an action
     plan for future research and management directions.

     At the time of the original listing, the fisheries service had
     insufficient information available to consider animals in different
     geographic regions as separate populations.  However, subsequent data
     analyses using Steller sea lion population dynamics, data from
     tagging, branding, and radio-telemetry studies, phenotypic data, and
     genetics have enabled the agency to delineate two discrete population
     segments of Steller sea lions within their geographic range.

     Since 1990, the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Alaska
     Department of Fish and Game, the Oregon Department of Fish and
     Wildlife, and the Canadian and Russian governments have continued to
     assess the Steller sea lion populations and to study the causes of the
     decline.  Results of 1990-1994 surveys to monitor abundance trends
     indicate that the number of adults and juveniles continues to decline
     in Alaska.  The Alaska Steller sea lion population fell by 60 percent
     from 157,000 juveniles and adults in the 1970s to less than 69,100 in
     1989.  The entire Steller sea lion population in the United States has
     declined 24 percent to 52,200 animals since 1989.


     Posted by:

     Robyn Angliss
     Office of Protected Resources
     National Marine Fisheries Service
     1315 East-West Hwy
     Silver Spring, MD  20910