$20K reward offered for information on killing of Steller sea lions 

NOAA Fisheries has increased to $20,000 the reward for information to determine who is responsible for the killing of numerous Steller sea lions in the Copper River Delta. 

The federal fisheries agency said in a statement issued on Aug. 4 that its original language seeking to find out who killed these sea lions wrongly implied that they knew fishermen were at fault. 

“At this point we don’t know who is responsible for the recent marine mammal mortalities and our language in the original web story wrongly implied that we knew fishermen were at fault,” NOAA said. 

Multiple endangered Steller sea lions have been found dead along the Copper River Delta this summer, with evidence of human interactions. These sea lions do not appear to have been struck or lost during subsistence hunting by Alaska Natives, who are legally allowed to hunt them under federal law. 

As of June 2, seven animals had been found, some with evidence of gunshot wounds or other human interactions. Since then, at least 15 additional Steller sea lions have been reported or found during surveys conducted by NOAA Fisheries in collaboration with the United States Coast Guard. Some had evidence of gunshot wounds.  

Investigations are underway on all of these mortalities. The number of carcasses seen this summer during NOAA surveys on the Copper River Delta is greater than during previous years’ efforts, NOAA officials said.