The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s law enforcement arm has increased the reward from $5,000 to $20,000 for information that could lead to a civil penalty or criminal conviction for the shooting of seven endangered Steller sea lions in May 2023.
The sea lions were killed near Cordova in the Copper River Delta. They were discovered on May 16 by members of NOAA’s Protected Resources Division. A joint effort with the Alaska Wildlife Troopers confirmed the sea lions had been shot, with no evidence of any intention to harvest or salvage them.
The western population of Steller sea lions has protected status under the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits harassment, harm, or killing of listed species, except for very limited exceptions. The Marine Mammal Protection Act also forbids the killing of marine mammals in most circumstances.
During fisheries up and down the coast, opportunistic sea lions and seals raid the nets of fishermen working their brief seasonal openings. In 2018, a skipper and his crew were found guilty of killing several Stellers in an incident that had happened in 2015 in the same area as this year’s slaughter.
Since the first seven sea lions were found dead of gunshot in May, further surveys have discovered 15 more carcasses.
Anyone with relevant information may contact the investigating agent directly at (907) 250-5188 or the NOAA’s Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964. To report deceased, injured, or stranded marine mammals, contact the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network at (877) 925-7773.