ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — A federal agency was correct when it restricted fishing in the Aleutian Islands to protect endangered Steller sea lions, which are nutritionally stressed because of a lack of food, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.
The decision from the appeals court, written by Judge Mary M. Schroeder, said the National Marine Fisheries Service did not violate the Endangered Species Act when it based the restrictions on declines in sub-regions of the species and not the entire population.
Schroeder also said "the agency utilized appropriate standards to find that continuing previous fishing levels in those sub-regions would adversely modify the critical habitat and jeopardize the continued existence of the entire population."
The court's decision upholds an earlier judgment from the U.S. District Court in Anchorage against the plaintiffs, the state of Alaska and commercial fishing interests.
"We are pleased that the Court of Appeals upheld the District Court's conclusion that NOAA Fisheries made appropriate decisions under the Endangered Species Act and other applicable laws," Julie Speegle, a spokesman for NMFS, said in an email to The Associated Press. "We look forward to working with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council and stakeholders to complete the pending Environmental Impact Statement that is examining potential fishery modifications that will support sustainable fisheries and protect endangered Steller sea lions."
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