Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures

Several species targeted by the groundfish fisheries off Alaska are prey for Steller sea lions (e.g., pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel). To protect Steller sea lions from potential competition for prey, NMFS has closed areas around Steller sea lion rookeries and important haulouts to commercial fishing for prey species. In addition to conserving prey for Steller sea lions, the area closures reduce the potential for the fisheries to disrupt the sea lions’ normal behavior near their terrestrial habitat. When the stock biomass of a Steller sea lion prey species is low, additional controls are applied to the annual catch limits to ensure that prey remain available for sea lions. NMFS has also imposed seasonal limits on catch of Steller sea lion prey and limits on catch of these species inside of Steller sea lion critical habitat.

With these protections in place, Steller sea lion populations are increasing in most of their range. Steller sea lion populations continue to decline in the western Aleutian Islands and are not increasing in the central Aleutian Islands. NMFS has imposed additional catch limits for Steller sea lion prey in the western and central Aleutian Islands, in addition to the measures noted above, to ensure the fisheries are not likely to affect the potential for these declining populations to survive and recover.

Protection Measures

Steller sea lion protection measures are integrated throughout the regulations for the Fisheries of the Exclusive Economic Zone off Alaska at 50 CFR 679. The current Steller Sea Lion Protection Measures in the Alaska Groundfish Fisheries were implemented in 2003 (Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska) and 2015 (Aleutian Islands) and are described in detail in the Federal Register notices listed below.




Areas Closed to Fishing to Protect Steller Sea Lions and Conserve Prey

The following sites have been closed to certain fisheries to protect Steller sea lions from disturbance and potential prey competition:

3nm No Groundfish Fishing Sites

Atka Mackerel Fisheries Closed Areas

Pacific Cod Non-Trawl Fisheries Closed Areas

Pacific Cod Trawl Fisheries Closed Areas

Pollock Fisheries Closed Areas

Final Shape Files

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