Steller Sea Lion FAQs

Is it legal to hunt Steller sea lions and who can take them?

Under the MMPA, Alaska Natives who dwell on the coast of the North Pacific or Arctic Ocean are the only people who may harvest Steller sea lions. When the act was passed, U.S. Congress recognized the cultural importance, and included an Alaska Native exemption for their take for subsistence or handicraft, provided that marine mammals are not taken in a wasteful manner. A similar exemption for Alaska Native subsistence exists in the ESA. However, because the MMPA definition is more restrictive in terms of who may harvest marine mammals for subsistence, the ESA definition is overruled.

Current regulations require that a person have the following in order to harvest or use marine mammals for subsistence:

  • 1/4 (25%) Alaska Native blood quantum, or
  • Be originally enrolled under ANSCA in 1971, or
  • In the absence of proof regarding blood quantum, be considered Native by your Native village or group, and that one or both of your parents were considered Native by their Native village or group.

Are there any federal regulations governing the take of Steller sea lions by Alaska Native subsistence users?

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) is the federal agency mandated with managing the Steller sea lion under the Endangered Species Act. Currently, there are no federal regulations governing the Alaska Native take of Steller sea lion. However, NMFS is responsible for ensuring that sea lion use is consistent with the law and that harvest is not done in a wasteful manner.

Do I need a permit to hunt sea lion?

NMFS has no permit requirement for Steller sea lion hunting. However, some Alaska Native Tribal Governments may have local Steller sea lion harvest regulations. Check with the local tribal government to see if any exist. Additionally, some communities may have restrictions on the use of firearms in certain areas, such as within city limits. Prior to hunting, it is important to know if any firearm restrictions exist.

Is there a hunting season or quota for Steller sea lions?

There are no U.S. Government restrictions on the taking of Steller sea lions for coastal Alaska Native subsistence as long as such practices do not contribute to the demise of the species. However, any Alaska Native Tribal Government has the ability to develop regulations on when and where hunts may occur. It is important to check with the local tribal government to see if any regulations exist.

What would happen if hunting seasons or quotas were deemed necessary?

In recognition that an ESA listed species may be important for Alaska Native marine mammal subsistence, Secretarial Order No. 3225 Endangered Species Act and Subsistence Uses in Alaska (Supplemental to Sec. Order 3206) was signed on January 19, 2001. The order establishes a consultation framework and reiterates the Government to Government requirements for ESA implementation in Alaska. If hunting seasons or quotas are deemed necessary and/or proposed, government to government consultation on these issues must occur.

Do I need to have my subsistence hunted Steller sea lion tagged or certified?

No. There are no Federal requirements to have Steller sea lion parts tagged or certified within a certain time period. There is no Federal Marking, Tagging and Reporting Program for those species managed by NMFS (sea lion, fur seal, seals, whales).

Can Steller sea lions be used for handicraft?

Yes. Handicrafts are defined as items that are not mass produced and are significantly altered from the raw or tanned skin form. Handicrafts can be sold to Alaska Natives and the general public. However, restrictions exist for the export of handicrafts containing Steller sea lion parts from the United States. For more information click here.

What is the difference between a rookery and a haulout?

“Rookeries” are those sites where adult males actively defend territories, pups are born, and mating takes place. This can be termed “Rookery behavior,” which is clearly evident from early May through late June. “Haulout sites” are those where sea lions rest on land (haulout), but where few or no pups are born. The distinction between rookeries and haulout sites has become blurred during recent years as some sites traditionally listed as rookeries have produced few or no pups. Conversely, noteworthy numbers of pups have been counted during recent years at some haulout sites, such as the Chiswell Islands and Jude Island. It is important to remember that the presence of pups does not define a rookery. Rookery behavior begins when adult males actively defend territories, pups are born, and mating takes place.