Story last updated at 3:27 p.m. Thursday, October 31, 2002

Steller comeback
An aerial survey in June of 84 haulout areas spotted more than 19,300 adult and adolescent Steller sea lions in and around the Gulf of Alaska and the Aleutian Island chain. Two years ago, in the same locations, only 18,300 were counted.

"This is the first good news we've had in 20-plus years," said biologist John Sease. "It's such a delightful change."

Low numbers of Steller sea lions have worried scientists for nearly two decades. The population has declined more than 80 percent in the past 25 years, leading to restrictions on commercial fishing and lawsuits by environmental organizations.

Recently, however, fishermen in these areas have noticed more sea lions.

"There have been indications that it's turning around somewhat," said Al Birch, executive director of the Kodiak-based Alaska Draggers Association, "Any increase is good news."

--The Associated Press


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