National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) provides federal management for Steller sea lions in the United States. All Steller sea lions were listed as threatened under the ESA in 1990 due to severe declines in the Western portion of their range. At that time, only one stock or population was recognized. In 1997, two Distinct Population Segments (DPS) were recognized - an Eastern DPS and a Western DPS. The Western DPS was reclassified to endangered status, and the Eastern DPS remained classified as threatened.
Most recently, in 2013, due to steady positive growth, the Eastern DPS was delisted from the ESA. It remains classified as "Depleted" under the MMPA while post-delisting monitoring occurs to ensure that removing the protections the ESA offers does not negatively impact the population. The population will be monitored for 5 years under the plan.
The Western Stock or DPS includes all of Prince William Sound westward to the tip of the Aleutians. This includes PWS, Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Bristol Bay, Aleutian Islands and the Pribilof Islands. Recent surveys indicate that the population at this point has been generally stable since 2004, however still at greatly reduced numbers from its earlier population estimate in the 1970's and earlier. Not all areas of the Western Population are stable however, the central and western Aleutians still continue to experience a downward population trend.
The Eastern Stock of Stellers extends southward from Cape Sucking to California. Sea lions in Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Washington and Oregon have shown steady increases since 1997. Counts in California and Southern California have shown declines from historic numbers. However, the stock overall has been slowly increasing in numbers since the mid-1970's.
Steller sea lions are traditionally an important cultural subsistence resource and this practice continues today.
Section 119 of the MMPA calls for co-management of the subsistence harvest of marine mammals and Secretarial order #3225 calls for meaningful participation by Alaska Natives in the subsistence management of species listed under the ESA. TASSC is currently working with the National Marine Fisheries Service on sea lion issues.
edited 20 April 2015