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.
- Wayne Price thinks if there is going to be a wider healing among Natives in America, the U.S. government needs to apologize for the devastating toll the boarding schools took.
- Alaska’s economic woes are affecting all corners of the state, especially communities that were banking on an Arctic boom.
- The dead included one police officer from a local university. At least nine other people were hurt, including four police officers.
- Studies recommended relocating villages like Newtok, Kivalina and Shishmaref. But more than 10 years later they are still there, with waves getting higher and storms getting stronger.