NOAA seeking information about sea lions killed near Cordova

NOAA seeking information about sea lions killed near Cordova
Published: Jun. 2, 2023 at 11:59 AM AKDT|Updated: Jun. 2, 2023 at 12:02 PM AKDT
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CORDOVA, Alaska (KTUU) - Officials are seeking information related to the shooting of seven sea lions in Cordova last month.

According to a press release from NOAA Fisheries, the seven Steller sea lions were shot and killed last month in the Copper River Delta near Cordova. The injured animals were discovered on May 16 shortly after the fishery opened in the region. They were found by members of NOAA’s Protected Resources Division, who coordinated with Alaska Wildlife Troopers. Together the agencies were able to determine the animals were shot but not in an attempt to harvest them.

“We’re asking for help from anyone who may have seen or heard anything related to the killing of these endangered animals,” said Nathan Lagerwey, Assistant Director with NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, Alaska Division.

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is offering up to $5,000 as a reward for information about the incident that leads to a civil penalty or criminal conviction. A NOAA website warns that shooting a sea lion can result in civil penalties of up to $29,000 per count, up to a year in prison, additional criminal fines, forfeiture of vessels, as well as harming the reputation of the fishery.

In addition to the Marine Mammal Protection Act — which protects all marine mammals — this particular population of Steller sea lions are also protected under the Endangered Species Act and may not be hunted, hazed or harassed. Only Alaska Native groups that have harvested Steller sea lions for subsistence may take a Steller sea lion.

Fishermen and property owners are allowed to deter the animals as long as it does not result in injury or death — and only if the animals are damaging gear, catch or maritime infrastructure such as docks, piers, floats and other vessels. Deterrence is also allowed to deter sea lions if their personal safety is threatened, but will be subject to fines and other penalties if they injure or kill the animal. Even NOAA issues a warning to those who attempt to deter the massive creatures do so at their own risk.

Anyone with information about the sea lion shooting should contact the investigating agent directly at 907-250-5188 or through NOAA’s Enforcement Hotline at 800-853-1964. To report dead, injured, or stranded marine mammals, call the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network at 877-925-7773.