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steller sea lion

Scientists Find New Clue In Steller Sea Lion Decline

Aug 23, 2017
NOAA

Scientists have finished another research season without solving the 40-year-old mystery of the Steller sea lion decline in the Aleutian Islands.

But this summer, a team from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration may have found a new clue.

NOAA biologist Katie Sweeney is trying to solve the mystery of two sea lion stocks.

salmonfishing.org

Counting Atka mackerel became really important, according to National Marine Fisheries Service Biologist Suzanne McDermott, when Steller sea lions were declared endangered in 1997.

“We learned that Atka mackerel are their main food item,” McDermott said. “That’s when we really started looking at them in relation to Steller sea lions.”

McDermott knows the mammals face competition for their food — from commercial fishermen. In 2016, Alaska fishermen caught and kept 55,000 metric tons of Atka mackerel, and discarded another 532 tons as bycatch.

Paul Wade, NOAA Fisheries

 

Before Bogoslof volcano started erupting, it was a haven for endangered Steller sea lions, fur seals, and sea birds. But scientists did not know when and if animals would return to the eastern Aleutian Island.

Vladimir Burkanov/NOAA

 

New research could help wildlife managers better protect declining Steller sea lion populations. The study looks at why sea lions zero in on specific hunting hotspots.

For humans, knowing where to find food is easy. But biologist Mike Sigler says for Steller sea lions, it’s a different story.

Melissa Good/Sea Grant

The carcass of a Steller sea lion washed up this weekend in Unalaska's Morris Cove.

The dead marine mammal was an adult male, almost eight feet long, according to Melissa Good of the Alaska Sea Grant program.

Good said it's unclear why the animal died.

She found it on the beach Saturday in a moderate state of decay. 

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