NOAA offers reward for information on shooting of Steller sea lions in Cordova

NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement is asking for help from anyone with knowledge of the shooting deaths of seven Steller sea lions whose bodies were found in the Copper River Delta near Cordova on May 16, shortly after the Copper River commercial salmon fishery opened.

A reward of up to $5,000 is being offered for anyone with information that leads to a civic penalty or criminal conviction.

Nathan Lagerwey, assistant director with NOAA’s Office of Law Enforcement, Alaska Division, said the dead sea lions were found by members of NOAA’s Protected Resources Division, who determined all seven sea lions were shot, with no evidence of any attempt to harvest or salvage them.

Kevin Clark, a NOAA enforcement officer based in Seward, Alaska, said that NOAA has received several calls from people in the Cordova area about the shooting of the sea lions, and really appreciate Cordova residents helping out in any way. NOAA is confident that they will get to the bottom of this incident, said Clark.

The western population of Steller sea lions is protected under the Endangered Species Act, which prohibits harassing, harming, or killing listed species, with very limited exceptions. Killing marine mammals is also a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Anyone with information should contact the investigating agent directly at (907) 250-5188 or through NOAA’s Enforcement Hotline at (800) 853-1964. To report a dead, injured, or stranded marine mammal, call the Alaska Marine Mammal Stranding Network at (877) 925-7773.