ATA attended a 2-day meeting in Sitka on Steller Sea Lions in April. This was an informational venue as there was little solid outcome of the meeting. There was a lot of brainstorming and an opportunity to connect with some of the nice professional folks involved with managing these marine mammals.
As you are probably aware, the Alaska sea lion population was separated into 2 populations in 2008 with the western population being listed as “endangered”. The eastern population, situated east of Cape Suckling (144 degrees longitude), was not designated as “endangered”. Our eastern population is growing by 8% per year, in the northern half of SE. The southern SE population is stable without noted annual growth per NMFS.
This from the new NMFS Protected Resources website:
Commercial fishermen are allowed to deter eastern distinct population Steller sea lions from damaging gear or catch, so long as such measures do not result in serious injury or death.
The problem is the “mixing zone” which NMFS has observed to be at the mouth of Cross Sound. Aside from the noted increases in population documented, there is significant western population co-mingling in this area.
ATA, as well as our fishermen in attendance, were hoping for a list of specific measures to deter sea lion takings from our hooks. While a list has been provided to fishermen off the coast of Washington and Oregon, it cannot be applied to Alaska sea lions.
Here is the link to the site recently composed by Protected Resources: