Oral arguments given in Alaska sea lion lawsuit

ANCHORAGE — Lawyers for Alaska and the federal government squared off Wednesday in a lawsuit filed by the state opposing protection of endangered Steller sea lions through commercial fishing restrictions around the western Aleutian Islands.

The state and seafood organizations contend the National Marine Fisheries Service failed to follow correct procedures and lacked scientific support for concluding that fishing must be curtailed because sea lions are nutritionally stressed. NMFS says it acted properly.

Environmental groups represented by Earthjustice intervened on behalf of NMFS.

The lawsuit in U.S. District Court was prompted after NMFS announced that commercial mackerel and cod fisheries in the western Aleutians would be restricted.

U.S. District Judge Timothy Burgess took the matter under advisement, and said he would act as soon as possible.

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