Named after Georg Wilhelm Steller, the German naturalist on the Bering expedition who fi rst wrote about the species in 1742, the Steller (or northern) sea lion is the largest member of the family Otariidae, the “eared seals,” which includes all sea lions and fur seals. They share parts of their range with a smaller related species, California sea lions.

There are two distinct population segments, the eastern distinct population segment (DPS) is listed as threatened and the western DPS which is listed as endangered.

Historically, Steller sea lions were plentiful throughout the coastal North Pacific Ocean. But their numbers started declining as they were hunted for their meat, hides, oil, and other products. Today sea lions are an important subsistence resource for Alaska Natives. Predatory by nature they consume a wide range of prey, foraging and feeding primarily at night on over a hundred species of fish depending on the abundance and distribution of prey species.

Like most otariids, Steller sea lions are vocal in air. Mature male sea lions have a range of vocalisations as part of their territorial behaviours, including belches, growls, snorts, and hisses that serve as warnings to others.

Steller sea lions are sometimes killed intentionally by fishermen, as they are seen as competitors and a threat to fi sh stocks. Killing sea lions is strictly prohibited in the US and Russia, but in Japan a fixed number are still removed annually, ostensibly to protect their fisheries. In Canada, commercial hunting is prohibited, but limited hunting permits are occasionally granted.

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