Tougher sea lion control law introduced in Congress

PORTLAND — The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, introduced April 8 by U.S. Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR), aims to “clear up inefficiencies and red tape to allow more effective management of alarming predation levels by California sea lions on Columbia River spring Chinook and other species.” If approved by Congress and the president, the legislation will authorize states and tribes to remove a limited number of predatory sea lions.
It allows active management of the growing Columbia River sea lion population and removes a requirement that individual sea lions be identified as preying on salmon before they can be removed.
So while there are management efforts to reduce pinniped predation in the vicinity of Bonneville Dam, this management effort is insufficient to reduce the severity of the threat, especially pinniped predation in the Columbia River estuary (river miles 1 to 145) and at Willamette Falls.” A limited removal program has been in effect since 2011 but the NMFS review concluded that the current program doesn’t do enough to protect endangered salmon.
This represents a 5.8 percent loss of the 2016 spring Chinook run a quarter mile of Bonneville Dam alone.
NOAA Fisheries Service also estimates that up to 45 percent of the 2014 spring Chinook run was potentially lost to sea lions in the 145 river miles between the estuary and Bonneville Dam.
Tribal leaders have expressed support for a key provision in the bill that would provide the Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama and Nez Perce tribes with access to the same authority currently available only to states.
Those who suggest that this — sea lions eating fish near Bonneville Dam — is a natural phenomenon are not familiar with either the normal habitat of sea lions or the hard-fought compromises that so many in the Columbia Basin have reached in order to try and have a productive fishery,” the Yakama said.
“Our tribes are working hard to restore ecological balance to a highly altered and degraded river system.
“The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act honors the underlying intent of both laws while providing professional fisheries managers with tools to manage both protected and endangered species.” Sea lion populations have seen resurgence under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
In 1972 when the Marine Mammal Protection Act was passed, the California sea lion population hovered around 30,000 animals.