Alaska Region - Steller Sea Lions in Alaska

Fisheries managers must protect and aid the recovery of the Steller sea lion under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) while providing for sustainable and economically viable fisheries under the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act - a difficult balancing act.


Many factors could impede the recovery of Steller sea lion populations-incidental take in fisheries, illegal shooting, predation, and certain diseases, as well as the effects of climate change, contaminants, and indirect competition from fishing. The National Marine Mammal Laboratory, in collaboration with research partners in the North Pacific, is conducting research to determine how each of these factors may affect sea lion recovery.

Current Management Actions

Regulatory Background

1990: Steller sea lion is listed as a threatened species (55 FR 49204) under the ESA due to substantial population declines.

1992: NMFS established no-trawl zones around sea lion breeding grounds to protect them from adverse impacts from fishing gear.

1993: Final rule established critical habitats for Steller sea lions (58 FR 45269).

1997: The Steller sea lion was split into western and eastern distinct population segments based on demographic and genetic dissimilarities (62 FR 24345). Due to its persistent decline, the western population was reclassified as endangered under the ESA, and the increasing eastern population remained classified as threatened.

2001-3: Regulations were enacted to manage Steller sea lions' interactions with various groundfish fisheries. Click here for more information on these regulations.

More Information

Key Documents

Protection Measures for the Groundfish Fisheries Off Alaska (68 FR 204, 01/02/2003)
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Steller Sea Lions
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