FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Carol Tocco
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service, an agency of the Commerce Department, announced the recommendation of 26 projects to be funded that will investigate the cause(s) of the decline of Steller sea lions.
The innovative selection process utilized by NOAA fisheries, incorporated the recommendations of a panel of stakeholders as recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, as well as a technical team made up of NOAA scientists. The two groups ranked the proposals independently for their potential to contribute to a comprehensive understanding of Steller sea lions. The two teams recommended by the North Pacific Fishery Management Council received and reviewed 74 proposals for grant money.
"We are pleased to see this focus and support for Steller sea lion research coming at such a critical time for our agency and the Steller sea lion," said Jim Balsiger, Alaska regional administrator for NOAA fisheries. "This research initiative will advance our understanding of the Steller sea lion, the ecosystem it lives in, and their potential for interactions with commercial fisheries."
Pending completion of the NOAA grants process, the projects will be funded through a budget of $15 million, and will be performed by non-federal researchers. The funding is part of an overall FY 2001 appropriation of $43.7 million (an increase of $38 million over the F2 2000 level) for Steller sea lion programs. These programs are continued in the president's budget request for FY 2002. This represents a significant elevation in priority by Congress and the administration for Steller sea lions.
NOAA fisheries received proposals covering 11 of the 13 funding priorities for this particular money. Selected proposals are undergoing final negotiations and reviews, with the expectation that the majority of grants will be awarded in time for the 2001 research season. Once everything is finalized, NOAA plans to provide a complete list and description of projects on their Web site, http://www.fakr.noaa.gov.
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