The new year will likely bring new fisheries to the western Aleutian Islands, now that the National Marine Fisheries Service has issued its final report on the way commercial fishing affects an endangered population of Steller sea lions.
The agency came out in favor of allowing more fishing in its environmental impact statement, or EIS, on Friday morning.
This is a major move for NMFS. As recently as 2011, the agency shut down fishing grounds in the Bering Sea and Aleutians. Biologists didn’t want the Steller sea lions to have to compete with fishermen for pollock, Atka mackerel, and Pacific Cod.
But the fishing industry argued that there wasn’t enough scientific proof that commercial harvests were putting pressure on the endangered species.
The issue went to court, and a federal judge ordered NMFS to go back to the drawing board. The agency was required to come up with this new environmental impact statement, which looks at the scientific and economic implications of different protection plans.
Last year, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council told biologists they preferred an option that would relax some bans on commercial fishing. It would allow a small pollock harvest near Adak, for instance.
NMFS has been studying that plan ever since. The agency ruled that more fishing — at certain times of year, in certain areas — is not likely to jeopardize sea lions.
Now, NMFS will start turning that into a federal regulation. It could be ready by January 1, 2015.
- Roughly 6,000 state workers were unable to log in to their computers, affecting two in five executive branch workers.
- The totem pole is an icon of the Pacific Northwest. The carved art form showcases clan stories and family crests in museums around the world. After more than 30 years in the Anchorage Museum, a century-old pole from Southeast has made it back to Sitka, where curators are prepping a permanent home.
- One of the Sealaska regional Native corporation’s longest-serving leaders is stepping down. Rosita Worl says she will not run for another term after 30 years on the board.
- President Donald Trump’s budget outline calls for eliminating funding for the National Endowment for the Arts. The NEA has been a frequent target of Republicans, but U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski supports the endowment, and Tuesday she won the 2017 Congressional Arts Leadership Award.