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Agency says eastern Steller sea lions recovering

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — A federal agency says the eastern population of Steller sea lions is recovering and should be removed from the endangered species list.

The National Marine Fisheries Service announced Wednesday it's formally proposing the change, which opens a 60-day public comment period.

The population covers Steller sea lions from Alaska's Cape Suckling, which is about 240 miles southeast of Anchorage, to California's Channel Islands.

Steller sea lions were listed as endangered in 1990. The agency says the eastern population has increased from about 34,000 in 1997 to 70,000 in 2010.

The agency says the proposal will not affect the endangered species status of the western population of Steller sea lions, which live in the area west of Cape Suckling all the way to the Aleutian Islands and the Russian Pacific coast.