The intent of the proposed rule is twofold. First, it is to protect endangered western distinct population segments of Steller sea lions and their critical habitat, as required under the Endangered Species Act, and second, to conserve and manage the groundfish fisheries in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area to minimize the economic impact of fishery management measures, to the extent practicable, as required under the Magnuson Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.
Western Steller sea lions, those generally found west of 144 degrees longitude in Alaska, are listed as endangered under the Endangered Species Act.
These Steller sea lions eat a diet principally of Atka mackerel, Pacific cod and pollock. The proposed NOAA measures would maintain a cautionary approach to fishing for these resources in the Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands management area.
Publication of the proposed rule in the Federal Register opened a 45-day pubic comment period, which concludes on Aug. 15.
Comments may be submitted electronically via the Federal e-Rulemaking Portal at www.regulations.gov, or mailed to Glenn Merrill, Assistant Regional administrator for sustainable fisheries, c/o NMFS Alaska Region, attn: Ellen Sebastian, Po Box 21668, Juneau, AK 99802-1668.
NOAA Fisheries said they will review and consider public comments submitted in developing a final rule to implement Steller sea lion protective measures. NOAA Fisheries expects to implement the new regulations in January 2015 to comply with a court ordered deadline set by the federal district court for the state of Alaska.
Go to www.alaskafisheries.noaa.gov/ for related documents.