Regulations designed to protect Alaska's population of Steller sea lions are being challenged by a congressional panel concerned about their impact on commercial fisheries off Alaska's coasts.
The House Natural Resources Committee, which includes Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young, heard testimony Monday in Seattle about Fisheries Service restrictions, enacted in January, that fishermen say have "drastically cut commercial fishing of mackerel and cod in the western Aleutians" at a cost of at least $44 million and 250 jobs, the Associated Press reports.
The fisheries closures and restrictions are meant to protect two populations of threatened or endangered Steller sea lions. The western population of Stellers fell from 250,000 to 45,000 over three decades; according to the AP report, the federal government still has not pinpointed the cause of the decline.
Alaska and two fishing industry groups sued the federal government over the new regulations.