|Scientific Name:||Eumetopias jubatus|
|Species Authority:||(Schreber, 1776)|
|Infra-specific Taxa Assessed:|
|Taxonomic Notes:||In previous IUCN evaluations, Steller Sea Lions have been treated as a single species. The species was listed as two separate stocks (officially called “distinct population segments”) under the United States Endangered Species Act (ESA) in 1997 based on the phylogeographic method (Loughlin 1997). Since that time, the stocks have been listed as endangered west of 144° W latitude, and threatened east of 144° W. Although the strongest evidence for stock separation at the time was the distribution of mtDNA haplotypes across the range, a divergence in population trend was also apparent. The two stocks have continued to display diverging trends, with continued increases in the east for at least 30 years and stability or slight increases in the west with localized areas of decline. In 2009, C. Phillips and co-authors (Phillips et al. 2009) published a manuscript that argued for sub-species designation for the two stocks based on morphological and genetic studies. The Society for Marine Mammalogy Ad-Hoc Committee on Taxonomy subsequently recognized two subspecies of Eumetopias jubatus, E. j. jubatus and E. j. monteriensis (Committee on Taxonomy 2012).|
|Red List Category & Criteria:||Near Threatened ver 3.1|
|Assessor/s:||Gelatt, T. & Lowry, L.|
|Reviewer/s:||Kovacs, K.M. & Burkanov, V.|
The Steller Sea Lion includes two recognized subspecies, the Western Steller Sea Lion (E. j. jubatus) and the Loughlin’s Northern Sea Lion (E. j. monteriensis) (Phillips et al. 2009, Committee on Taxonomy 2012).
Eumetopias jubatus jubatus experienced a dramatic and unexplained population decline of about 70% between the late 1970s and 1990 with the steepest decline occurring between 1985 and 1989 when the population was reduced by 15% per year. The population reached its low point in approximately 2000 and has shown an overall annual increase of 1.5–2% since that year. However, in the western Aleutian and Commander islands the trends have continued to show persistent declines. Overall, the Asian portion of the population declined through the 1990s and began to slowly increase in 2000 due to increases in the Sea of Okhotsk and the Kuril Islands. The decline of the 1980s and 1990s weights the trend such that the subspecies has experienced a population reduction of 57% during the last three generations (1981–2011), and it qualifies for Endangered.
Eumetopias jubatus monteriensis currently occupies a range from east of 144°W south along the North American coast through Southeast Alaska, British Columbia, Canada, Washington, and Oregon, and breeds as far south as Año Nuevo Island in Central California. This population has increased steadily since 1979, and in 2011 it was 170% larger than in 1981. Therefore, E. j. monteriensis qualifies for Least Concern.
When the two subspecies are considered together, the large increase displayed by E. j. monteriensis is enough to compensate for much of the decline elsewhere, such that the overall abundance of the species has declined by 28% over the last three generations. This is just outside of the criterion A2 threshold for Vulnerable, therefore Eumetopias jubatus is currently listed as Near Threatened
Steller Sea Lions normally occur from central California north along the west coast of North America, westward through the Gulf of Alaska and the Aleutian Islands to the Kamchatka Peninsula, and from there south along the Kuril Islands to northern Japan and the Sea of Japan (Loughlin 2009). They also occur in the Sea of Okhotsk, the Kuril Islands, and the Bering Sea north to Bering Strait. Vagrants have been recorded in China, and at Herschel Island in the Beaufort Sea.
Native:Canada (British Columbia); Japan; Russian Federation (Kamchatka, Kuril Is.); United States (Alaska, Aleutian Is., California, Oregon, Washington)
Vagrant:China; Korea, Democratic People's Republic of; Korea, Republic of
|FAO Marine Fishing Areas:||
Pacific – eastern central; Pacific – northeast; Pacific – northwest
|Range Map:||Click here to open the map viewer and explore range.|
The Steller Sea Lion includes two recognized subspecies: the Western Steller Sea Lion (E. j. jubatus), and the Loughlin’s Northern Sea Lion (E. j. monteriensis) (Phillips et al. 2009, Committee on Taxonomy 2012).
The subspecies that occupies the area west of 144° W longitude (E. j. jubatus) declined by approximately 69% between 1977 and 2007 (NMFS 2008). From 1981 to 2011 the decline was approximately 57%. The decline was most dramatic (-81%) in the large populations from the Gulf of Alaska, west throughout the Aleutian Islands, and including Russia. However, since 2000 the overall trend has been a slight overall increase in numbers (1.5–2% per year) despite continued declines in the western Aleutian Islands. Total abundance of the subspecies in 2011 is estimated to be approximately 78,000 (NMFS unpublished data).
Eumetopias jubatus monteriensis occurs from east of 144° W longitude south along the North American coast to central California. This population has increased at an average rate of more than 3% per year since 1979. Total abundance of the subspecies in 2011 is estimated to be approximately 65,000 (NMFS unpublished data).
When the two subspecies are combined, the estimate of total abundance of E. jubatus in 2011 is 143,000 which is a decline of 28% since 1981 (NMFS unpublished data).
Population viability analyses have been conducted for the subspecies E. j. jubatus and E. j. monteriensis but not for the species as a whole. However, given that abundance of E. jubatus is currently increasing at 4% per year the probability of extinction is <10% in 100 years.
|Habitat and Ecology:||
Steller Sea Lions are the largest otariids and the fourth largest pinniped. Both sexes are robust and powerfully built. They are sexually dimorphic, with adult males weighing three times as much, and growing 20–25% longer than, adult females. Pups are born with a thick blackish-brown lanugo that is moulted by about six months of age. The maximum length of adult males is about 3.3 m and average weight is 1,000 kg. The maximum length for adult females is about 2.5 m and average weight is 273 kg. Pups are born at an average size of about 1 m and 18–22 kg (Loughlin 2009).
The greatest threat to E. j. monteriensis has been intentional culling in Southeast Alaska and Canada in the 1950s and 1960s. Those practices were discontinued in the early 1970s and the population has been increasing ever since. Some are killed in nets in fisheries off the west coast of North America. An unknown number may be shot during commercial fishing operations although it is generally believed that this source of mortality has been reduced dramatically since the establishment of federal laws prohibiting killing of sea lions in Canada and the United States (NMFS 2012). The 2008 Steller Sea Lion Recovery Plan found that there were no apparent threats limiting the recovery of this population (NMFS 2008), and the increasing population trend confirms that conclusion.
The reasons for the large declines in E. j. jubatus are unclear, but they have been the subject of intensive and ongoing investigations. Deliberate killing by fishermen, disease, incidental take by fisheries, and reduced food supply have been suggested as factors that may have contributed to the decline (Lowry et al. 1989, Loughlin and York 2000). In the 2008 Recovery Plan the Steller Sea Lion Recovery Team identified and ranked threats to recovery using a weight of evidence approach to assess the relative impact (NMFS 2008). They recognized three threats as “potentially high”: environmental variability, competition with commercial fisheries, and Killer Whale predation. The fact that this subspecies has been increasing since 2000 indicates that at least some of the threats previously affecting the population have been reduced.
Steller Sea Lions are protected in the United States, Russia, and Japan. They have been listed in the Red Data Book of Japan as a rare species since 1993. An annual quota of 116 animals is allowed to be taken in Japanese waters for fishery nuisance control (Wada 1998). In Russia, the major Steller Sea Lion rookeries were protected under a Northern Fur Seal and Sea Otter conservation act in the late 1950s. They were listed as endangered (category 2) in the Russian Red Data Book in 1994 and harvest was prohibited. These measures had a positive effect in the western portion of the range as the population increased around Sakhalin Island, the Kuril Islands, and in the northern Sea of Okhotsk. However, abundance along the eastern coast of Kamchatka and in the Commander Islands has continued to decline for unknown reasons (V. Burkanov pers. comm.).
In the United States the Steller Sea Lion is listed as depleted under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act. The species was listed as threatened under the ESA in 1990, and in 1997 the western population was uplisted to endangered. A recovery plan for Steller Sea Lions was approved in 1992, and a revised recovery plan was published in 2008. Critical habitat was designated under the ESA in 1993. No-entry zones were established around rookeries at the time of listing, and fisheries, particularly those operating in critical habitat, have been managed to reduce the likelihood of competitive interactions. Substantial funding has been made available for Steller Sea Lion research to develop information on ecology, behaviour, genetics, population dynamics, and movements. Results have been used to assist in the development of management activities, to attempt to understand the reasons for the decline, and to promote recovery of the species (NMFS 2008). The fact that the overall growth rate of the western population is now positive suggests that at least some of these conservation efforts have had a beneficial effect. In 2012, the agency responsible for management of sea lions in the U.S. drafted a species status review which concluded that the eastern subspecies (E. j. monteriensis) should be removed from the ESA threatened and endangered species list (NMFS 2012).
|Citation:||Gelatt, T. & Lowry, L. 2012. Eumetopias jubatus. In: IUCN 2013. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. <www.iucnredlist.org>. Downloaded on 24 April 2014.|
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