May 22, 2007
"The plan is designed to aid recovery of the Steller sea lion populations listed as endangered in Alaska's western population segment and threatened in the eastern population segment," said Doug Mecum, Acting Administrator of NOAA Fisheries' Alaska Region. "We hope people will take time to read the draft revised plan and give us ideas and comments."
The plan highlights three actions that are especially important to the recovery of the species: (1) maintain adequate fishery conservation measures; (2) design and implement an adaptive management program to evaluate conservation measures; and (3) continue population monitoring and research on the key threats that may be impeding sea lion recovery. The plan also outlines recovery criteria for both populations; recovery criteria are the parameters necessary to down-list or de-list the species.
NOAA Fisheries established a new recovery team in 2001 to develop a strategy for the recovery of the endangered and threatened populations of Steller sea lions. The recovery team was composed of 17 members representing fishery and marine mammal scientists, the fishing industry, Alaska natives, and environmental organizations. The recovery team reviewed the latest scientific and management information available and developed recommendations for NOAA Fisheries. After five years in development, the recovery team submitted the revised plan to NOAA Fisheries with unanimous endorsement by the 17 team members.
NOAA Fisheries released the draft plan in May 2006 for public review and comments. Comments were provided by the Marine Mammal Commission, the State of Alaska, the North Pacific Fisheries Management Council, non-governmental organizations; members of the fishing industry, members of academia and other interested parties. Five independent experts reviewed the plan. NOAA Fisheries reviewed the comments and incorporated recommendations into the Draft Revised Plan.
Due to extensive public interest in this recovery plan, NOAA Fisheries has released the Draft Revised Plan for another round of public review and comments this summer. This will provide the public with an opportunity to review the changes the agency made and to submit further comments prior to release of the final Steller Sea Lion Recovery Plan.
NOAA Fisheries has also scheduled an additional peer review, to be completed by the Center for Independent Experts in June 2007.
The Steller sea lion was listed as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act on April 5, 1990 due to substantial population declines. In 1997, the Steller sea lion was split into western and eastern distinct population segments. At that time, the western distinct population segment was up-listed to endangered status due to persistent declines, while the status of the eastern segment remained threatened. Recent surveys showed a population growth rate in the western segment of about 3% per year between 2000 and 2004, the first increase in the population since the 1970s. The western population segment is currently about 44,800 animals. The eastern population segment is currently between 45,000 and 51,000 animals, and has been increasing at 3% per year for about 30 years.
Comments on the Draft Revised Plan must be received by close of business on August 20, 2007.
Send comments to Kaja Brix, Assistant Regional Administrator, Protected Resources Division, Alaska Region, NOAA Fisheries Service, Attn: Ellen Walsh. Comments may be submitted by:
Interested persons may obtain the Plan for review from the above address or on-line from the NOAA Fisheries website: http://www.fakr.noaa.gov/protectedresources/stellers/recovery.htm.
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