Russia's Stellers

Goodness knows the Alaska groundfish industry has taken some hits over the endangered Steller sea lion.

Just last year, you'll recall, federal regulators closed big stretches of water in the western and central Aleutians to commercial fishing to preserve prey for Stellers.

Of big interest to the industry, and the North Pacific Fishery Management Council, is the status of Steller stocks much farther west, in Russian waters.

Well, we might soon find out.

The National Marine Fisheries Service is seeking a contractor to conduct a boat-based survey of Steller adults and pups at rookeries and haulouts in East Kamchatka, the Commander Islands, the Kuril Islands, the Sea of Okhotsk and the western Bering Sea.

All told, the field work will cover 1,160 nautical miles of coastline and run into the summer of 2015.

"The contractor must have necessary personnel who are fluent in Russian and English and experienced in surveying and collecting this type of data in the Russian Far East and the ability to obtain the appropriate Russian permits," the contract solicitation says.