The Ninth Circuit Court in Seattle has upheld protections for endangered Steller sea lions in the western Aleutian Islands, denying a motion for rehearing filed by the state of Alaska and Alaska fisheries industry participants.
The decision stems from the National Marine Fisheries Service implementation in 2011 of new protections to address steep declines in the population of Steller sea lions in the Western Aleutians, after a five-year consultation process.
Michael LeVine, Pacific senior counsel for Oceana, an environmental non-profit dedicated to protecting the world’s oceans, praised the court’s Oct 16 decision, calling it “a good day for Steller sea lions.” LeVine said the order validates again “what scientists and courts have told us for more than 20 years – we can and must make more sustainable choices about how we take fish from the ocean.”
The state and two segments of the fishing industry had challenged the protections implemented by NMFS in court.
The state and industry members appealed to the Ninth Circuit Court after the district court upheld the protections, while requiring the agency to prepare an environmental impact statement now in progress.
The plaintiffs then moved for rehearing and on Oct. 16, the court denied that motion.