Not a Steller Success
Debate is raging among environmentalists and fishers over Alaska’s Steller sea lions, whose numbers have dropped by more than 80 percent in the last 20 years, from 120,000 to 20,000. Enviros charge that fishers are catching too many pollack, exacerbating the sea lions’ decline by depriving them of a primary food source, and last month a federal judge agreed and ruled that the National Marine Fisheries Service had failed to adequately protect the sea lions. Meanwhile, scientists may petition to have orcas listed under the Endangered Species Act, noting that the Puget Sound population of the killer whales has declined from 98 to 86 in the last four years. Reasons for the drop may include toxic chemical contamination, disturbances from whale-watching boats, and declining numbers of salmon, the orcas’ main food source.