Today, the United States District Court for the District of Alaska upheld protections for the Western Population of Steller sea lions. The new measures were put in place by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to reduce competition between large-scale commercial fisheries and endangered Steller sea lions in the Aleutian Islands.
Steller sea lions are powerful, playful creatures that are gracefully adept at moving through icy waters. (NOAA)
The ruling came after the State of Alaska and industry groups sued to have the sea lion protections thrown out.
“It’s a good day for our oceans,” said Susan Murray, Oceana’s Senior Director, Pacific. “This decision shows that responsible management requires steps to protect healthy ocean ecosystems including sustainable fisheries and vibrant communities. We are moving away from managing single species money fish and toward ecosystem-based management that takes into account the needs of apex predators in our oceans.”
The court found that the agency based its decision on good science and, with one exception, followed appropriate process. According to the court, the agency did not comply with the law in failing to prepare a full environmental impact statement.
“Today’s decision validates the agency’s use of the best science to protect our oceans,” said Colin O’Brien, staff attorney at Earthjustice, “The next step is a full evaluation of the impacts of fisheries on ocean ecosystems, including Steller sea lions.”
Oceana and Greenpeace, represented by Earthjustice, intervened in the lawsuit to defend the new measures.
The parties will submit briefing on the scope of the new environmental impact statement by February 8.