ANCHORAGE, ALASKA — The eastern population of the Steller sea lion will be taken off the threatened species list, a federal agency announced Wednesday.
The sea lions, whose range stretches from Alaska's Panhandle to California's Channel Islands, are the first animal to be delisted by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in 19 years.
The last animal delisted was the eastern North Pacific gray whale, which was taken off the threatened list in 1994, NOAA spokeswoman Julie Speegle said.
The agency earlier this year recommended delisting the eastern population of the Steller sea lions, an action sought by the states of Alaska, Washington and Oregon. Commercial fishermen also protested fishing regulations because of the listing.
"We're delighted to see the recovery of the eastern population of Steller sea lions," Jim Balsiger, administrator of NOAA Fisheries' Alaska Region, said in a statement announcing the delisting. "We'll be working with the states and other partners to monitor this population to ensure its continued health."