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NOAA Plans to Delist Eastern Steller Sea Lion

WASHINGTON (CN) - The eastern Stellar sea lion is no longer threatened with extinction, and should be removed from the endangered species list, according to a desliting proposal from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

"This proposal reflects the continued recovery of the eastern population of Steller sea lions and the strong conservation partnership among NOAA Fisheries, the states, the fishing industry, and other stakeholders," NOAA's Fisheries Service Alaska Regional Administrator Jim Balsiger said in a press release.

Steller sea lions, which range in an arc across the north Pacific from China to California, were first listed as threatened under the act in 1990, largely due to indiscriminate shooting by people who saw them as competition for depleted fishing stocks.

In 1997, the protected population was divided into two genetically distinct population segments. The NOAA proposes to delist the eastern population, which ranges from which ranges from Alaska's Cape Suckling to California's Channel Islands. The western segment, which ranges from Alaska to the Russian Pacific coast, will retain its endangered status.

Agency biologists estimate that that the population of the eastern segment has than tripled from a low of around 18,000 in 1979 to more than 63,000 in 2009.

The public has until June 18 to comment on the delisting proposal.

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