Last month, three independent experts sharply criticized a federal "biological opinion" on the Steller sea lion.
The National Marine Fisheries Service had used the controversial BiOp as the basis for restricting commercial catches in the western and central Aleutians. The intent is to leave more cod and other fish in the water for the endangered Stellers to eat.
The question now is whether the expert reviews will carry any weight in two ongoing forums on the Steller issue.
One forum is the federal courts, where the state and commercial fishing groups are suing in an effort to overturn what they regard as scientifically unsupported fishery restrictions.
The other forum is the federal bureaucracy, as NMFS prepares an environmental impact statement. A judge in January faulted the agency for not doing an EIS prior to imposing the fishing restrictions.
With that as background, here's an interesting letter the Freezer Longline Coalition recently sent to Jane Lubchenco, the Obama administration official who oversees NMFS. The Seattle-based group is among those suing the government, naming Lubchenco herself as a defendant.
In its letter, the group "respectfully" asks Lubchenco to notify the courts of the "new, important, and compelling information" in the expert reviews. It also asks her to "withdraw the BiOp."
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