State Says Sea Lions Don’t Need Protection

By Dave Donaldson

Governor Parnell today announced that the state has asked the Federal Government to take the Eastern population of Stellar Sea Lions off the list of species getting Endangered Species Act protection. It is currently listed as “threatened.”  

The Eastern Sea Lion population has recovered and the threats facing them have been addressed to the point where they no longer need Endangered Species Act Protection.

In announcing the petition – which was joined by the states of Washington and Oregon – Govenror Parnell said taking the Steller Sea Lion off the list would remove what he sees as a “roadblock to development” in Southeast Alaska.

If our petition is successful,  we’ll take a large swath of Southeast Alaska’s coastline out from the E-S-A’s burdensome and litigious regime.

The Eastern population lives roughly east of Prince William Sound and along the Pacific Coast South to California .  It has increased by an average of about three percent a year since the 1970’s and has been on the Threatened Species list since 1990.

Lowell Fritz of NMFS’s Alaska Science Center,  says this particular population of sea lions was already the subject of a recovery plan developed by the agency in  March of 2008.

This was likely to be a candidate for de-listing because it has shown fairly consistent, fairly unimpeded increase over thirty years – three generations of sea lions.  So it didn’t seem like it was threatened with extinction any longer.

Parnell also has asked that the National Marine Fisheries Service not increase protection for the Western population of stellar sea lions — which carries an “endangered” listing.  NMFS has determined that the status of the Western population is affected by commercial fishing, and it raises the possibility of curtailing fishing activities in the Western Aleutians.

Fritz says the Western population is very different and has had different dynamics over the last thirty years.

I don’t think you can .. and we haven’t … made the claim that just because the east has done well, that that means much of anything in regard to what should or shouldn’t be done in the west.

Parnell has brought action against the federal government on many fronts – from health care to polar bears.   But he says this action is the first “offensive” step the state has made – saying all the others were in defense of Alaska’s state policies.

His opponent in the November General election, Ethan Berkowitz, says Parnell is using disagreements with the federal government is a distraction.

It’s easier to hurl accusations at the federal government than to take responsibility for his own failings.

The federal government will review the Alaska, Washington and Oregon petitions for delisting.  That review will be open for public comment,  and NMFS has ninety days to respond.

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