Oregon, Washington Congressmen Introduce Sea Lion Bill

A pair of legislators from the west sides of Washington and Oregon today introduced a bill in Congress that would address sea lion predation in the Lower Columbia.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, a Southwest Washington Republican, and Rep. Kurt Schrader, a Northwest Oregon Democrat, teamed up on the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, which aims to “improve the survival of endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species in the Columbia River system.”

A SEA LION LOAFS ON AN ASTORIA DOCK. (BENJAMIN STANDFORD, NOAA-FISHERIES)

A SEA LION LOAFS ON AN ASTORIA DOCK. (BENJAMIN STANDFORD, NOAA-FISHERIES)

Similarly titled bills introduced in previous years haven’t gone anywhere, but the Columbia Inter-Tribal Fisheries Commission immediately supported it, saying they’ve “consistently supported the efforts of the Northwest Congressional delegation to amend Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act for greater clarity and efficiency.”

A “key” provision in the bill would provide tribes in Eastern Oregon, Eastern Washington and the middle Snake River basin with the same authority to act as the two states.

According to a press release from Herrera Beutler, it would authorize tribal members — under the training of U.S. Fish and Wildlife staff — to use lethal force to remove sea lions after multiple attempts at relocation have been unsuccessful.

“Our tribes are working hard to restore balance, wherever we can, in a highly altered and degraded river system. The Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act are thoughtful laws that need to be reconciled with one another,” CRITFC’s executive director, Paul Lumley, said in a press release. “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.”

According to CRITFC, the bill:

* Accelerates the process for granting lethal take authority;

* Limits the cumulative level of lethal take to 1% of annual biological potential removal level;

* Further limits the lethal take to 10 animals per permit holder;

* And spurs the Secretary of Commerce to report on any additional legislation needed to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act within two years.

“Predation from sea lions is a serious, growing threat to salmon and steelhead recovery efforts in the Pacific Northwest, as well as the future of our fisheries,” said Gary Loomis, founder of G.Loomis, Edge Rods and Coastal Conservation Association in the Pacific Northwest, in a press release.

According to CRITFC, state and tribal biologists estimate that 20 percent of the spring Chinook run is gobbled up by sea lions in the Columbia below Bonneville.

Large numbers have already gathered on the docks in Astoria, though that could also be due to the smelt run. Last year’s was the best in quite awhile.

According to last week’s Columbia Basin Bulletin, the number of California sea lions in the river has swelled from 250 or less before 2012 to 1,500 last year.

CBB also noted that sea lions ate 8 percent of the Willamette springer run at the falls, and 13 percent of the steelhead run.

Herrera Beutler’s office said that the number of sea lions relocated by WDFW has grown from 80 in 2010 to 616 in 2014.

“As the people of the Northwest invest millions annually towards salmon recovery on the Columbia River, it is important that tribal and government fish managers have the necessary tools to restore balance between abundant sea lion populations and the endangered salmon and steelhead populations,” said Guy Norman, WDFW regional director for the Lower Columbia. “We have been entrusted to protect these endangered fish populations and this legislation introduced by Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler gives us the tools we need.”

6 thoughts on “Oregon, Washington Congressmen Introduce Sea Lion Bill”

  1. This kind of proposed legislation just shows how absolutely out of touch Mr. Shader is to the superfund site called the Willamette that has resident fish consumption warnings due to heavy toxins. The Columbia River has fish consumption warnings due to heavy metal toxins such as Uranium, Barium, copper, DDT, BPA’s ( causes small penis) PHA, Dioxins, PCB’s , methyl mercury, and pesticides. Congressional reports show that salmon runs are recovering and that the sea lions impacts are minimal compared to the dam, habitat loss, inundation of hatchery fish, and harvest. The US NAVY has identified over 30,000 miles of blocked fish passage in Washington State and ODFW past director Roy Elicker has stated that there are over 3,600 diverts and culverts in Oregon that need fish screens and to be maintained. Oregon state police have identified over 500 miles on blocked fish passage on the Willamette. Critfic was paid $900, million dollars by the Bonneville Power in 2008 to turn their backs on the destruction that the 14 dams on the Columbia River and the deadly gas bubble disease they cause in fish. Critifc is suing the state of Washington because the cancer rates are so high in people who eat fish out of the Columbia River on a daily basis– There are four lower dams on the snake river that have been identified that if removed will greatly improve the ability for salmon to make it up river. The by catch mortality on ESI fish on purse seines(20%) which are now the river since being banned 50 years ago. The post mortality of sport fishing is 12% on the Willamette and 10% on the Columbia There are now 8 million people in the Columbia River. A drunk ODFW employee was cited for drunk and reckless driving after he totaled the state salmon transport truck killing 11,000 juvenile Chinook on the highway. ODFW just donated 175 tons of chinook salmon to food banks across Oregon. Blaming sea lions just shows how out of touch these people are with the realities of the eco system . The challenges facing our bioregion and the complete corporate take over of the public commons.

    1. Thanks for recognizing that the environment is pretty messed up. Sea lions might just be responding to increased smelt and springer numbers, but we can’t pretend they’re off limits to management.

      AW
      NWS

    2. What you fail to recognize is that salmon pass thru the river faster than other fish and don’t have the toxins that bass and other species have. The sturgeon populations at declining due to predation from the sea lions with no hatcheries to replace them. There is no sport fishing either below Bonneville because the numbers are declining. The recovery time is much longer than salmon. There needs to be balance in nature and there is currently none.

    3. The donated fish are from the fall runs which are suffering no where near the loss to sea lions as does the spring Chinook rjn

  2. Sea lion population is out of control in the Columbia River Basin. Current population level on the west coast is 300,000. Soon the seal lions will be starving due to over population. Twelve different salmon stocks on the Columbia River Basin are currently on the Endangered Species List. I know salmon aren’t as cute and cuddly as sea lions but something needs to be done and all non violent measures have proved ineffective.

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