Last week, the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) issued a final rule (pdf) delisting the eastern distinct population segment (DPS) of the Steller sea lion (Eumetopias jubatus) from the list of threatened and endangered species. NMFS concluded that delisting is warranted because the species has met the recovery criteria outlined in its 2008 recovery plan and no longer meets the definition of a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

According to NMFS, the eastern DPS Steller sea lion population has increased from an estimated 18,040 animals in 1979 to over 70,000 animals. The sea lions are the first animal to be delisted by NMFS in 19 years. Jim Balsiger, a NMFS administrator in the Alaska Region, stated: “We’re delighted to see the recovery of the eastern population of Steller sea lions. We’ll be working with the states and other partners to monitor this population to ensure its continued health."

The eastern DPS includes Steller sea lions living in southeast Alaska (near Cape Suckling), British Columbia, Oregon, and California. The western DPS includes Steller sea lions that reside in the central and western Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, as well as those that inhabit coastal waters in Asia (e.g., Japan and Russia). The western DPS remains classified as endangered under the ESA. NMFS is not proposing any changes to the status of the western DPS.