Rugged, isolated, teeming with life. Steller Sea Lions (Eumetopias jubatus) congregate at a remote rookery that we sailed past in South East Alaska. Also known as the Northern Sea Lion, they are the largest of the Otariid (eared seal) family with adult males reaching up to 3.4 m in length (11 feet) and weighing up to 1,120 kg (2,500 pounds ). In contrast to true seals, sea lions can turn their hind flippers forward for walking on land.
Despite limited historical economic value the lions were still hunted commercially in the 19th Century for their skin, meat, oil, and whiskers (which were sold for use as tobacco-pipe cleaners). Added to the list of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 1990; the eastern population of the Steller sea lion was removed from the list in November 2013 after having grown from about 18,000 in 1979 to over 70,000 in 2010. The genetically distinct western population is still however listed as threatened and a controversial cull still exist in Japan, allowing 1030 Steller Sea Lions to be culled over a 5 year period, with the belief that the sea lions compete with their commercial fisheries.