News: February 3, 2014

Greetings from the Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission!

NMFS Draft Stock Asssessments Out for Public Comment - Comment Period Closing Soon

What Happens Next Since the Eastern Population of Steller Sea Lions have been Delisted from the Endangered Species Act?

Seldovia Village Tribe's Seafood Consumption Study

Did You Know?

Greetings from the Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commisson
Greeting from the Alaska Sea Otter and Steller Sea Lion Commission and welcome to our first electronic newsletter! We have decided to transition to electronic newsletters and distribution to minimize our footprint, as well as allow for faster distribution with time sensitive issues. We will still continue with our print-based publications, such as our upcoming 2014-2015 calendar.

We hope that you enjoy this issue and those to come. Please feel free to share this with anyone who may be interested!

We have also set up a page on Facebook. Come like our page and let us know what issues and concerns you have regarding marine mammals and subsistence. We look forward to hearing from you!

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NMFS Draft Stock Assessments Out for Public Comment - Closing Soon!
Federal agencies that manage marine mammals are required by the Marine Mammal Protection Act to publish Stock Assessment Reports (SARs). NMFS currently has 2013 Draft SARs for marine mammals under its jurisdiciton out for public comment.

Each SAR contains standard information:
staus of the stock,
geographic range,
minimum population estimate,
identify allowable human take (Potential Biological Removal/PBR),
numbers of human removals and serious injury by source,
current and maximum productivity levels - repoduction rates,
current population trend, and
• other factors that may be causing the stock to decline.


Under the MMPA, Stocks are considered to be Strategic or Non-Strategic. Strategic stocks are those where human removals exceed the PBR, are declining and likely to be listed as threatened or endangered under the ESA, or are already listed under the ESA.

SARs for strategic stocks are required to be updated annually, those for non-strategic stock every 3-years or sooner if new information becomes available.

Federal agencies work with the Strategic Review Group to update the SARs, as well as put them out for public comment. The comment period for the 2013 NMFS SARS is approaching fast, due February 4, 2014.

Comments on the 2013 drafts may be submitted electronically via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at http://www.regulations.gov (identified by NOAA-NMFS-2013-0136).

They may also be submitted by mail to Chief, Marine Mammal and Sea Turtle Conservation Division, Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service, 1315 East-West Highway, Silver Spring, MD 20910-3226, Attn: Stock Assessments.

All comments submitted are a part of the public record, and will be generally posted to the regulatroy portal without change, including personally identifying information that that you have included, such as name, address, etc. If you do submit comments, please keep that in mind and do not submit sensitive or confidential information.

For more information on submission, please see the Federal Register Notice at:
https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2013/11/06/2013-26598/draft-2013-marine-mammal-stock-assessment-reports

The 2013 Draft Stock Assessment Reports can be found at: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/pr/sars/draft.htm

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What Happens Next Since the Eastern Population of Steller Sea Lions have been Deslisted from the Endangered Species Act?
On November 4, 2013, the National Marine Fisheries Servcie published notice in the Federal Register that delisted the Eastern Population of Steller sea lions from the Endangered Species Act List, effective December 4, 2013. For more information on the delisting, please see the Federal Register Notice. Steller sea lions from Cape Sucking at 144° West longitude eastward through Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California are affected by this delisting.

NMFS has developed a Post-Delisting Monitoring Plan (PDMP) that will be implemented 10-years beyond the delisting to ensure that recovery of the population continues. A draft PDMP was included as an appendix in the draft Status Review when it was released for public comment. It has been revised based on comments received during the public comment period. A copy of thefinal PDMP can be found in Appendix 3 of the Final Status Review.

It has 3 main goals:
• monitor population trends in adult/juvenille abundance, pup counts to see the number of pups born (pup production), monitor vital rates including survival and birth rates, and to continue to see how movement from sea lions in Prince William Sound or elsewhere in the Western Population may be affecting non-pup counts in each population.
• monitor threats that could affect recovery
• determine if the southern range of sea lions is moving northward resulting in a range contraction

Although the Eastern Population was delisted from the ESA, it still is protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and this delisting does not affect the endangered status of the Western Population. As a result of the delisting, the prohibitions of the ESA that were outlined in 50 CFR 223.202 are not longer in effect for the Eastern Population and the stringent permitting requirments for actions that may affect ESA listed animals are no longer in effect for the Eastern Population. However, because sea lions from the Endangered Western Population cross over the boundary into the Eastern Population, NMFS will consider whether additional protection is required for those animals.

In addition, the Eastern Population is not longer automatically as Strategic or Depleted under the MMPA in its SARs. NMFS will be working with the SRG and others this year to determine if the Eastern stock should be relcassifeid as a non-Stratetic stock and/or non-Depleted.

 
SSL Stock Structure

 

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Seldovia Village Tribe's Seafood Consumption Study
In 2011-2012, Seldovia Village Tribe (SVT) located in Cook Inlet, undertook a comprehensive survey of how much fish, shellfish and other select subsistence foods tribal members of Seldovia, Port Gram, Nanwalek and Tyonek consume. They were motivated to conduct this because there was little current information about subsistence food consumption rates by Cook Inlet tribal members. With concerns about environmental contaminant levels, SVT believed that current consumption rates were much higher than those published by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). Because the Alaska Deparmtent of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) uses these rates to establish water quality standards based on human heath criteria, there was concern that if this were true, the current water quality standards may not be sufficient to protect tribal members from contaminants found in the environment.

The Study documented how much was consumed, what parts were eaten, how they were prepared and by whom.
They found that the average adult fish consumption was 94.8 grams per day, five times higher than the rate of 17.5 grams per day recommended by the USEPA and fifteen times higher than that used by the ADEC to caculate human-heath ambient water quality criteria and standards for toxins in Alaska. As a result of this study, they recommned that government agencies use a much higher rate of consuption to determine water quality standards that corresponds to the highest seafood consumers of 247 grams/day (95 percentile).

While the report can be downloaded from our website, it can also be accessed through Seldovia Village Tribes website at www.svt.org under community programs.

Did you Know?
Did you know that the 2014 Alaska Marine Science Symposium was just held in Anchorage January 20-24th? Started in 2002, scientists from all over have come together to share the latest research about the Arctic and Alaskan marine fisheries and ecosystems. Topics range from fisheries, marine mammals, Exxon Valdez Oil Spill & related topics, ocean acidification, climate change and more.

Though the 2014 Symposium just ended, you can still access the Symposium Agenda, Abstract Book and Errata. The Abstract Book contains summaries of each presentation given at the Symposium and each Poster displayed during the Poster Presentation sessions. They are good resources, especially if you were not able to attend in person.

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