The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife is proposing the removal of the Steller Sea Lion from the state’s threatened species list, and adding the Tufted Puffin to the endangered list. WDFW staff members are tentatively scheduled to discuss their reports and recommendations with the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at its January meeting.

Forty-six species of fish and wildlife are listed for protection as state endangered, threatened or sensitive species.

The tufted puffin report is available online at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01642/, while the Steller sea lion report is available at http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/01641/.

 

Stellar Growth

Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) - Photo by NOAA Fisheries
Steller Sea Lion (Eumetopias jubatus) – Photo by NOAA Fisheries

Steller sea lions are the larger of the two sea lion species found in Washington and have been protected as a state threatened species since 1993. They are the fourth largest pinniped in the world, behind the northern elephant seal, southern elephant seal, and walrus. The Eastern distinct population segment was listed as endangered in the 1990’s, and removed from the federal list in 2013.

steller sea lion dps

If delisted it would remain protected under the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act, and as a protected species in Washington. However the state notes that if delisted their population could also be controlled through lethal removal of small numbers of individuals at locations where authorized by federal and state law.

 

 

No Puffin

Tufted Puffin colony occupancyTufted puffins are native seabirds once considered common in the San Juan Islands, Strait of Juan de Fuca and along the Washington coast. Over the last several decades, however, Tufted Puffin populations have declined significantly in Washington waters including the Salish Sea region (Puget Sound, Strait of Juan de Fuca, Strait of Georgia), during the 1980s and 1990s. The state also notes breeding grounds have dwindled to almost half what they were a few years ago.

The federal government is also considering extending protection to tufted puffins under the Endangered Species Act, but that decision is not expected until 2016 or 2017.  If the tufted puffin is approved for listing in Washington state, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will develop a plan outlining actions necessary for the species’ recovery in the state.

In Washington, the state “endangered” designation is given to a native species that is seriously threatened with extinction throughout all or a major portion of its range.

 

Comments and Discussion

The commission, a citizen panel appointed by the governor to set policy for WDFW, could act on the proposals at its February meeting. For meeting dates and times, check the commission webpage at wdfw.wa.gov/commission.

Draft rule proposals regarding Tufted Puffin and Steller Sea Lion have been filed with the Office of the Code Reviser.  These proposals will be presented, and public testimony taken, at the February 6-7, 2015 Fish and Wildlife Commission meeting in Olympia. The Commission will consider amending or adopting these regulations during or after the March 20-21, 2015 meeting in Moses Lake.  A public comment period on both moves is open, written comments on the reports and recommendations can be submitted via email to [email protected] or by mail to

Penny Becker

Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife

600 Capitol Way N.

Olympia, WA

98501-1091