The North Pacific fishing industry is proposing a rider to a major budget bill in the U.S. Congress that would lift a federal court injunction banning fishing in Alaskan waters where endangered Steller sea lions feed. In July, a federal judge ruled that the U.S. government had not developed an adequate protection plan for the sea lions and he therefore closed 156,000 square miles of coastal waters to fishing for pollock, a major food source for the sea lions, until an adequate plan is put in place. Over the past 35 years, the Steller sea lion population is estimated to have dropped from 230,000 to fewer than 40,000. The fishing industry is lobbying Congress to remove the court injunction at least through June 1, 2002, and Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens (R) is considering sponsorship of a rider that would do just that. “This rider is a frontal assault on the Endangered Species Act,” said Janis Searles of the Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund.

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