September 29, 2020

Researchers pay for Alaska sea lion intrusion

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A science consortium has agreed to a civil penalty of $9,000 for intruding into Alaska waters that were declared off-limits to protect endangered Steller sea lions.

But an attorney for the group, which included participants from Vanderbilt, Rutgers and Pittsburgh universities, took strong exception to a federal agency linking the scientists to the killing of a sea lion by Alaska native hunters who were with the researchers.

The Office of Law Enforcement for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday in a news release that it had reached a settlement with the researchers for the “unpermitted take of a Steller sea lion.”

Rutgers attorney Robert P. Roesener said that could be called “defamatory.”

“This case was a frivolous abuse of NOAA’s discretionary enforcement power from the beginning,” said Roesener. “It is yet another example of the agency’s much publicized enforcement abuses, this time against eminent scientists who had been enlisted in a scientific investigation by the state and federal government and Native Alaskans to help determine whether atomic bomb testing in the 1960s had caused radioactive contamination of the Natives’ subsistence foods supply.”

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