Contact: Carol Tocco


Scientists and managers agree that more research is needed to determine the causes of the continuing decline of Steller sea lions in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Representatives of several agencies and organizations met to develop a comprehensive and coordinated research plan to study the decline of the Steller sea lion in Alaska during a two-day meeting at the NOAA Western Regional Center in Seattle, Wash., on
Jan. 24-25.

The participants, representing the government agencies and non-government organizations slated to receive Steller sea lion research funds under 2001 Congressional appropriations, included NOAA's National Marine Fisheries Service, Office of Oceanic and Atmospheric Research, National Ocean Service, and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Alaska SeaLife Center, University of Alaska, North Pacific Fishery Management Council and the North Pacific Universities Marine Mammal Research Consortium.

"We were pleased with the participation and outcome of the discussions," said Jim Coe, acting science director for NOAA‘s Alaska Fisheries Science Center. "We all agreed that these complex issues will require a dedicated effort well into the future. Each participant will be contributing their expertise and knowledge to finding answers. Together we can protect Steller sea lions while providing for viable commercial fisheries for Alaskan communities."

Discussions focused on developing an integrated suite of studies to address factors that may be impeding Steller sea lion recovery, including the role of commercial fisheries, environmental change, predation by killer whales and sharks, disease, pollution and human caused mortality. Over 50 projects were proposed by the participants, including expanded studies of Steller sea lion biology, oceanographic monitoring, and the effects of fishing on prey abundance and distribution.

In addition, the participants identified elements of an overall spending plan which will make the most efficient use of the $43.15 million of federal funding available for this effort. Refinement of the overall research plan and formulation of individual studies will continue for several weeks, with the intention of having a robust field program underway this year.

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