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A Mystery in Alaska

Are Fisheries Guilty?

In the 1970s, the pollock industry in Alaska expanded to become the largest fishery in the world. Around the same time, sea lions began to disappear. Despite other possible factors — such as pollution, humpback whales depleting their main food sources, or predation by killer whales — many people thought the fisheries had been caught with the smoking gun. After a July 2000 ruling by the Federal District Court, the National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it would close all fishing of pollock, Pacific cod, and Atka mackerel in a large part of the sea lions’ critical habitat. But what were the costs of this decision? And is the solution to disappearing Steller’s sea lions really that simple?