Current status:

Western population (central and western Gulf of Alaska, Aleutian Islands, Japan and Russia) federally endangered; eastern population (southeast Alaska, British Columbia, California, and Oregon)  federally threatened; throughout range, US Marine Mammal Protection Act depleted


Colder temperate to sub-arctic waters of the North Pacific Ocean. Haul outs and rookeries usually consist of beaches (gravel, rocky or sand), ledges, rocky reefs. In the Bering Sea and Okhotsk Sea, sea lions may also haul out on sea ice, but this is considered atypical behavior.

Causes of decline:

Hunting for meat, fur, oil etc. in the 1800s; killing and placing bounties on this species, which fishermen blamed for stealing fish from them in the early 1900s; killing to limit their predation on fish in aquaculture facilities (fish farms), but intentional killing of Steller sea lions has not been permitted since they were protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) and listed under the ESA (not since 1972).

Current primary threat(s):

Boat/ ship strikes; contaminants/ pollutants; habitat degradation; illegal hunting/ shooting; offshore oil and gas exploration; interactions (direct and indirect) with fisheries.

What we’re doing about it:

Point Blue has conducted weekly, year-round, ground-based pinniped (seal and sea lion) censuses at the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge’s (FNWR) since the early 1970s, which have included estimation of Steller sea lions by age class.  This is one important aspect of our effort researching and stewarding the FNWR's unique natural resources every day and night since 1968, in partnership with the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). With over 40 years of continuous work on the FNWR, we have produced hundreds of peer reviewed scientific publications and made valuable scientific contributions to address management challenges including human disturbance, fishing bycatch, oil pollution, and establishing state marine protected areas.  We are continuing our long-term monitoring efforts and applying our scientific results to conservation efforts of Steller Sea Lions and other marine animals and plants on and around the refuge. 

Learn more:

View a special highlight document on Steller Sea Lions put together by Point Blue biologist Ryan Berger.

Visit and follow our Los Farallones blog for updates on Steller Sea Lions and other wildlife and work on the Farallon National Wildlife Refuge.

How you can help:

Only eat seafood that is being sustainably harvested, using various guides available to the public, such as Seafood Watch.

Report sightings of injured seals and sea lions to: Marine Mammal Center’s hotline number of 415-289-SEAL, for the local bay area.

Support marine conservation efforts and work, such as Marine Protected Area legislation, local beach clean-ups, sustainable fishing efforts, and ecological research.