Audio and Presentations from the August 22, 2011 Meeting A public meeting was held in Anchorage to provide an opportunity for the independent science panel members to receive comments and feedback on the draft review and recommendations.
The States of Alaska and Washington are jointly conducting an independent scientific review of a recent biological opinion by the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) concerning the impact of groundfish fisheries on Steller sea lions. The two states have assembled a panel of scientists to determine whether the federal agency used all relevant scientific information and impartially considered those facts in its final Biological Opinion for Bering Sea and Aleutian Islands and Gulf of Alaska Groundfish Fisheries released last November. This BiOp, which evaluated the impact those fisheries have on the western population of Steller sea lions, was the basis for significant fishery closures and restrictions in the western Aleutians that went into effect January 1, 2011.
The scientific panel convened by the states reviewed the critical science relevant to the analysis of factors affecting the status and recovery of sea lions. Findings in their final report include:
They disagreed with NMFS that the findings of Jeopardy and Adverse Modification were warranted, based on the evidence presented in the Biological Opinion.
The panel found that the NMFS theory of nutritional stress from competition with fisheries was not well supported, and that other scientific explanations were inadequately examined.
The Reasonable and Prudent Alternatives in the Biological Opinion were unlikely to contribute to sea lion recovery.
The economic valuations in the BiOp accurately reflected the actual impacts to the affected communities and fishing fleets
This pre-publication version of their final report presents the findings of the four panel members, and does not represent the views of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife or the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The final published version will be released by ADFG through their Special Publication series, and will be citable as such. The WDFW greatly appreciates the work of the panel, and intends to base future efforts to modify this Biological Opinion on their scientific findings.