The good news: The eastern population of Steller sea lions is now considered “recovered” by the federal government and they are no longer listed as threatened on the Endangered Species Act.
The bad news: Reread the good news.
I admit it, I’m a conflicted greenie. The thought of all species happily interacting with each other the way nature intended warms my heart. It’s an admirable goal and one that is seemingly well beyond human capability to restore. The successes of the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammals Protection Act cannot be understated. Animals that were once rare are now common place again. The problem is that some animals that were once common place can be made more rare by the ones that were once rare and are now common place. It’s complicated.
The rebuilding of the eastern Steller sea lion population has a good ring to it until you have a group of them following your boat around waiting to eat any salmon you hook. Ditto for finding them upstream in the Columbia River at Bonneville Dam dining on returning salmon that are themselves endangered and costing hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars to recover.
Like I said – I’m conflicted. If a species can be called recovered, can species can become “over recovered”. Steller populations are growing at a rate of 4.8% per year. At what point do they level off? It doesn’t appear Steller sea lions have reached over population, but California sea lions are another story.