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Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias Jubatus)

Summary of Status Report

Steller sea lions are widespread in coastal waters off British Columbia, and breed at 3 major locations: off the northeastern tip of Vancouver Island (rookeries on Maggot, Sartine and Triangle Islands), off the southern tip of the Queen Charlotte Islands (rookeries on the Kerouard Islands), and on the northern mainland coast (rookeries on North Danger Rocks). Control programs and commercial harvesting between 1913-1968 depleted the BC population. However, they have made a slow recovery since being protected in 1970. Combining population estimates from BC and southeast Alaska (which are difficult to separate due to the large rookery situated just north of the border) suggests that Steller sea lions have exceeded historic 20th century peak levels by about 50%. Although small numbers (relative to historic kills) continue to be killed for predator control, illegally, incidentally in fishing gear, or for subsistence use, the growth of the Steller sea lion population implies that the current level of killing is within sustainable levels. Other anthropogenic threats such as disturbance, contaminants, oil spills and entangle­ment in debris may have localized impacts, but do not appear to threaten the entire population at this time. With the recovery of populations since 1970, it is anticipated that natural regulatory mechan­isms such as fluctuations in prey availability, predation, disease and environmental factors such as El Niño events and decadal oscillations will play an increasingly important role in dictating future population levels.