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National Marine Fisheries Service, Alaska Regional Office

Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures

Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures in the Alaska Groundfish Fisheries

Steller sea lionsSteller sea lions. Photo: JJ Vollenweider, NOAA Fisheries.

NMFS uses Steller sea lion protection measures (SSLPM) to insure the groundfish fisheries off Alaska are not likely to jeopardize the continued existence of the western population of Steller sea lions or adversely modify their critical habitat. The management measures disperse fishing over time and area to protect against potential competition for important Steller sea lion prey species near rookeries and important haulouts.

Effective for the 2015 fishing year, NMFS implemented a comprehensive suite of Steller sea lion protection measures. The protection measures apply to vessels fishing in the Atka mackerel, Pacific cod, and pollock fisheries in the Aleutian Islands. Steller sea lion protection measures regulate fishing by applying a combination of closed areas, harvest limits, and seasons that reduce fishery competition for Steller sea lion prey when and where Steller sea lions forage.

2015 Protection Measures

  • News Release: NOAA to implement Steller sea lion protection measures for Aleutian Islands fisheries NEW!
  • Final regulations to implement Steller sea lion protection measures to insure that groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area 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. Effective December 26, 2014.
    • Proposed Rule to implement Steller sea lion protection measures. Comment period through August 15, 2014.

Harvest Limits

The final rule, in conjunction with existing regulations, establish harvest limits by sector, area, and season for the Atka mackerel, Pacific cod, and pollock fisheries in the Aleutian Islands. Tables 1, 2, and 3 in the preamble provide the 2015 estimates of biomass, the overfishing levels (OFLs), the acceptable biological catches (ABCs) from the 2015 harvest specifications, and the new harvest limit amounts established under the final rule. The 2015 biomasses, OFLs, ABCs, TACs, and harvest limit amounts are subject to change pending the Council’s recommendations for final harvest specifications during its December 2014 meeting. NMFS will publish the final harvest limits in the final 2015 and 2016 harvest specifications.


NMFS provides this Small Entity Compliance Guide to satisfy the Small Business Regulatory Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996, which requires a plain language guide to assist small entities in complying with this rule. This synopsis provides a general overview as a public service. For exact regulatory language, please refer to the federal regulations at 50 CFR 679.


VMS Requirements

Federally permitted vessels that use trawl gear to harvest groundfish in the Aleutian Islands must set their vessel monitoring system (VMS) to transmit the vessel location at least 10 times per hour.


Analyses

  • Final EIS - Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures for Groundfish Fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands Management Area, May 2014
  • 2014 Biological Opinion - Authorization of Alaska groundfish fisheries under the Proposed Revised Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures, Section 7 Consultation, April 2014
  • Biological Opinions - Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands (BSAI) and Gulf of Alaska (GOA) Groundfish Fisheries Section 7 Consultations
  • Historical Analyses

Closed Areas and Maps

NMFS has designated 100,286 square kilometers as critical habitat for Steller sea lions in the Aleutian Islands. NMFS has established 3nm No Groundfish Fishing Sites. NMFS has also closed:

  • The Aleutian Islands Habitat Conservation Area to nonpelegic trawl gear, which applies to the Atka Mackerel and Pacific cod trawl fisheries;
  • The Aleutian Islands Coral Protection Areas to bottom contact gear, which applies to the Atka mackerel trawl fishery and Pacific cod trawl and non-trawl fisheries; and
  • The Bowers Ridge Habitat Conservation Zone to mobile bottom contact gear, which applies to the Pacific cod non-trawl fisheries.


SSL PROTECTION MEASURES CLOSURES:
The final rule implements the following closed areas in the Aleutian Islands.

Atka Mackerel Fisheries Closed Areas

  • Map
  • Table: Vessels are prohibited from directed fishing for Atka mackerel with trawl gear in waters:
    • from 0 nm to 3 nm from haulouts and from 0 nm to 10 nm from rookeries in Areas 543 and 542,
    • from 0 nm to 20 nm from Steller sea lion haulouts and rookeries in Area 542 located between 178° E longitude and 180° E longitude and east of 178° W longitude, and
    • inside critical habitat in Area 541, except for a portion of critical habitat from 12 nm to 20 nm around Seguam Island.

Pacific Cod Non-Trawl Fisheries Closed Areas

  • Map
  • Table: Vessels are prohibited from directed fishing for Pacific cod with non-trawl gear (hook-and-line, pot, and jig) in waters:
    • from 0 nm to 3 nm from rookeries and from 0 nm to 10 nm from Buldir Island in Area 543,
    • from 0 nm to 3 nm from rookeries for hook-and-line and pot gear vessels in Area 542,
    • from 0 nm to 3 nm from rookeries west of 172.59° W longitude and in critical habitat from 0 nm to 20 nm east of 172.59° W longitude in Area 541, and
    • in the Seguam Foraging Area

Pacific Cod Trawl Fisheries Closed Areas

  • Map
  • Table: Vessels are prohibited from directed fishing for Pacific cod with trawl gear in waters:
    • from 0 nm to 3 nm from haulouts and from 0 nm to 10 nm from rookeries in Area 543, Area 542, Area 541, and
    • from 0 nm to 20 nm around Agligadak Island in Area 541.

Pollock Fisheries Closed Areas

  • Map
  • Table: Vessels are prohibited from directed fishing for pollock with trawl gear in waters:
    • from 0 nm to 20 nm from rookeries and haulouts in Area 543, except 3 nm to 20 nm from Shemya, Alaid and Chirikof haulouts that remain outside of 20 nm from rookeries, in Area 542, west of 178° W longitude, from 0 nm to 20 nm from haulouts and rookeries, except in the specified open area near the Rat Islands,
    • east of 178° W longitude, from 0 nm to 3 nm from haulouts and from 0 nm to 10 nm from rookeries, except at Kanaga Island/Ship Rock where directed fishing for pollock is prohibited in waters from 0 nm to 3 nm from haulouts and rookeries in a portion of Kanaga Sound east of 178° W longitude.
    • from 0 nm to 3 nm from haulouts and 0 nm to 10 nm from rookeries in Area 541.

MapViewer
  • SSLPM ArcReader Files: download, view, query, navigate and print the Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures charts (coming soon)


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