Steller Sea Lion Legalities

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is the federal agency mandated with managing the Steller sea lion. Currently, under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), Steller sea lions are listed as endangered West of Cape Suckling (144 W longitude – near Cordova, including all of PWS) including Cook Inlet, Kodiak, Bering Sea, Bristol Bay and the Aleutian Islands.

East of Cape Suckling, including Yakutat, southward from Southeast to British Columbia, Washington, Oregon and California, Steller sea lions were recently delisted from the ESA. However they are still considered to be Depleted under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. In addition, the Western population of Steller sea lions are also considered as Depleted under the MMPA, a result of being listed under the ESA.

Even though Steller sea lions are listed under both the ESA and MMPA, there are no Federal regulations for Alaska Native subsistence harvest other than it cannot be wasteful and can only be by Alaska Natives. Since it has not been shown that subsistence is materially and negatively affecting the survival of the species, subsistence harvest cannot be regulated. However, to ensure the continuation of the ability to use our resources for subsistence, harvests must be done wisely.

Additionally, there are no Federal requirements to have sea lion parts tagged or certified within a certain time period (such as with sea otters, walrus and polar bear parts).

Many Alaska Tribal Governments participate in or have begun their own harvest monitoring programs to gauge harvest levels in their area. Alaska Native hunters are encouraged to check with the local Tribal Government to see if any local reporting requirements exist.

In summary:

  • It is legal for Alaska Natives to harvest Steller sea lions for subsistence, however the take must not be wasteful.
  • It is legal to sell handicrafts made from these animals to all people. However, Steller sea lions are not listed under CITES (the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species). CITES is an agreement between nations that provides for the import of endangered or imperiled species. Because Steller sea lions are not included, people cannot bring Steller sea lion parts outside of the United States or import them into the US.
  • Alaska Natives can sell or trade raw, unaltered marine mammal parts only to other Alaska Natives.
  • There is no federally mandated tagging or reporting program for those Steller sea lions harvested for subsistence.
  • Alaska Native hunters are encouraged to check with the local Tribe to see if a management plan exists for that area or if Tribal reporting requirements exist.
  • Alaska Native Subsistence Hunters are exempt from Critical Habitat prohibitions while subsistence hunting.