Conservation groups back in 2014 a lawsuit in federal court challenging the National Marine Fisheries Service’s (NMFS) decision to roll back protections for the western Steller sea lions. They are a population protected under the federal Endangered Species Act.
Read the complaint here: http://earthjustice.org/documents/legal-document/steller-sea-lion-complaint-12232014
So in November 2014, the Fisheries Service issued a rule that would allow industrial fishing fleets back into waters.
Consequently, waters that originally were put off limits in 2010. So now this is reducing competition between Steller sea lions and large commercial fisheries. Consequently those fisheries are catching millions of pounds of the Steller sea lions prey species. So those species include: pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel. Finally, the decision to undermine the protections comes when the population is continuing to decline precipitously. Especially in the far western Aleutian Islands.
However as of today, the Newest Federal Register states:
Consequently: Marine mammal oil spill response and preparedness in the Cook Inlet and Kodiak region of Alaska presents many challenges. Especially for and including remote conditions which hurt chances of helping the Stellar Sea Lions. For example, lack of infrastructure, equipment, and trained personnel. As well as large populations of marine mammals will be impacted.
Additionally, marine mammals are important subsistence and cultural resources for Alaska Native coastal communities. So response efforts must be cooperative with and sensitive to local communities.
That’s why NMFS developed the Guidelines through stakeholder engagement. Especially developing regionally specific and culturally conservation based sensitive response strategies. All for during disasters that impact marine mammals.
In addition, NMFS sought input on communication and response protocols for carcass collection. As well as de-oiling, tissue sampling, necropsies, and subsistence food issues. They did this all through meetings with local leaders and responders. The localities they talked to are in Kenai, Seward, Ninilchik, Seldovia, Port Graham, Homer, Anchorage, Nanwalek, Kodiak, Ouzinkie, Port Lions, Larsen Bay. As well as teleconferences and email correspondence with outlying communities.
These stakeholder meetings resulted in three key recommendations for the Guidelines:
(1) Include a communication structure that is locally based and efficient;
(2) prioritize response to address impacts to fish and Stellar sea lions associated public health and economy; and
(3) address the lack of infrastructure, equipment, and trained personnel for response efforts.