Tag Archives: S 3119

Columbia Sea Lion Bill Signed By President

Northwest fish advocates are waking up to some positive news this morning.

Federal legislation expanding sea lion removals in more of the Columbia and many of its tributaries became law yesterday, capping a multi-year, multi-stakeholder, bipartisan effort to reduce pinniped predation on ESA-listed salmon and steelhead as well as other stocks in the big river.


S.3119 gives the three Northwest states as well as the Nez Perce, Yakama, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Cowlitz Tribes, and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission up to five one-year permits to kill as many as 920 California sea lions and 249 Steller sea lions annually through an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

Those figures represent the 10 percent potential biological removal, or PBR, levels for both species, according to WDFW’s Meagan West, the agency’s federal legislative coordinator.

“We anticipate lethal removal to be a lot lower,” she said, based on the number of sea lions that venture up the Columbia above river mile 112 and below McNary Dam and into salmon spawning tribs like the Cowlitz.

A similar bill was introduced in the U.S. House last year, but following swift passage through the Senate and then the lower chamber of Congress earlier this month the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act was signed yesterday by President Trump, according to a bill announcement posted by the White House.

It was cosponsored by Idaho Sen. Jim Risch (R) and Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell (D). The original House bill was put forth by Washington Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-3) and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-5), both of whom represent parts of the Lower and Middle Columbia.

Liz Hamilton at the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association in Portland said that with salmon recovery so complex, “to have one of the many moving parts moving in the right direction is so exciting.”

In 2014, an estimated 104,333 ESA-listed Upper Columbia spring Chinook were believed to have been eaten in the river by sea lions.

“Folks are recognizing we have a system that is out of balance,” Hamilton said.

WDFW’s West said that the permittees are starting to talk to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration about how to streamline the process with as few applications as possible.

ODFW’s Dr. Shaun Clements says that because the way the bill is worded, Oregon will have to submit a separate one to meet tribal requirements.

They would then be reviewed by NOAA and through the National Environmental Policy Act.

With the bill signing, “We can start this process immediately now,” West said.

She praised the myriad stakeholders for coming together to work on passing a sea lion bill and said she was excited by the outcome.

“Really, really relieved it’s over the finish line,” added Clements. “We appreciate the efforts of the delegation.”

The permits are in addition to prior authorizations for the states to take out California sea lions at Bonneville Dam and ODFW at Willamette Falls.

Clements says that the bill will eventually supersede those because it covers the same areas.

U.S. House Passes Senate’s Sea Lion Bill; Next Stop: White House

The U.S. House today passed the Senate’s Columbia sea lion bill and it now heads to President Trump’s desk for his signature, according to Northwest lawmakers.


The bipartisan Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act, which gives states and tribes more leeway to manage the predatory pinnipeds feasting on ESA-listed Chinook and steelhead as well as other stocks in the river and its tributaries, was approved by unanimous consent, just as it was in the upper chamber last week.

“I suspect many would wish the times were different and this legislation wasn’t necessary,” said Jaime Pinkham, executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “But the reality is that this legislation has become necessary. Tribal and state fisheries co-managers collaborated to explore and implement alternatives for over a decade and the imbalance shifted the greatest risks to the salmon and steelhead, and we remember how the story ended at Ballard Locks. I’m grateful Congress worked in a bipartisan manner to give us the local flexibility to protect the tribal treaty resources we share with others in the Columbia and Willamette rivers.”

S.3119, as the bill is known, was cosponsored by Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Jim Risch (R-ID).

“Today’s passage of our bill to control sea lions was a hard-fought victory – it’s a personal victory for each of us who treasure our Northwest salmon runs and want to see them preserved for generations to come,” said Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-3) in a joint press release with Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-5). “I’m grateful for the partnership of my colleague Kurt Schrader, and for Senators Risch and Cantwell for shepherding this through the Senate. I’m so pleased we are able to give Northwest fish managers this critical tool to help save our salmon and steelhead runs.”

Herrera Beutler, a Republican, and Schrader, a Democrat, represent communities on either side of the Lower Columbia.

Schrader said it was a problem he’d worked on since first coming to Congress.

“Ratepayers and my constituents are paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually towards the largest mitigation program in the country for threatened and endangered salmon. These sea lions, whose population has become totally inconsistent with their historic range, have been undoing all of that work by feasting on the endangered species. Our legislation will provide a great step forward in eliminating this threat to our iconic Oregon salmon that are struggling to survive once and for all,” he said in a press release.

In another quickly issued press release, Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-Yakima Valley) applauded the “bipartisan effort to improve management of pinnipeds threatening salmon” in both chambers of Congress.

“We really appreciate our state’s Congressional delegation’s leadership and support to pass this legislation,” added Nate Pamplin, the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife’s policy director. “The sea lion population in the Lower Columbia River has increased dramatically in recent years, presenting a greater threat to wild salmon and steelhead runs than ever before.”

He said the bill, which had widespread support not just in the aisles of Congress but among stakeholders, would “provide us and co-managers with the tools needed to protect these vulnerable fish populations.”

Rodmaker Gary Loomis of Coastal Conservation Association said “CCA was proud to be part of this coalition effort and is thankful of the years of efforts by our members in support of this legislation.”

The news actually came as state salmon managers and sportfishing industry officials were meeting in Clackamas to review the 2019 Columbia spring Chinook forecast, which is roughly just one-half of the 10-year average.

That is due in part to very poor ocean conditions in recent years, but in 2014, the loss of 40 percent of the year’s first Columbia salmon run — an estimated 104,333 fish — was attributed to sea lion predation.

So when the bill came before federal lawmakers in Washington DC this afternoon, NSIA’s Liz Hamilton says that ODFW staffers paused the run forecast meeting to watch on the big screen.

“Applause all around,” she said of the room’s reaction to the House’s move, “combined with optimism for the future of Willamette wild winter steelhead and hope for other stocks deeply impacted by pinniped predation, including sturgeon.”

Earlier this fall federal overseers granted ODFW a permit to remove up to 93 sea lions around Willamette Falls after state officials estimated that there was a 90 percent chance one of the Oregon trib’s steelhead runs would go extinct if nothing was done.

The states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho have had federal permission to remove specific animals gathered at Bonneville Dam since March 2008.

This bill, which amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act for five years, extends that authority to the Yakama, Nez Perce, Umatilla and Warm Springs Tribes and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

It allows for the lethal removal of sea lions in the Columbia from the dam down to River Mile 112 and upstream to McNary Dam, as well as in the river’s tributaries with ESA-listed salmonids.

Bipartisan Salmon Predation Prevention Act Passed By US Senate Committee


Today, bipartisan legislation to build upon existing laws to manage the sea lion population passed by the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation. The legislation, proposed by U.S. Senators Maria Cantwell (D-WA) and Jim Risch (R-ID), will give state and tribal fishery managers more flexibility to address predatory sea lions in the Columbia River system.


The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, which helps protect endangered salmon and steelhead populations, passed without objection and will be considered next on the Senate floor. The bipartisan bill would allow wildlife agencies to better protect vulnerable fish populations through science-based management of these invasive, non-ESA listed sea lion populations, while also maintaining a strong Marine Mammal Protection Act that supports research, science-based management, and public process.

“Wild salmon are central to the culture, economy, and tribal treaty rights of the Pacific Northwest and protecting these fish is crucial to the health of Southern resident orcas,” said Senator Cantwell. “This science-based, bipartisan bill enhances existing tools that state and tribal wildlife managers need to address salmon predation, protect the health of sea lion stocks, and ensure that we are managing wildlife based on the best science available. Pacific salmon should be protected for generations to come.”

“Threatened and endangered species of salmon are being damaged by sea lions in the Columbia River, severely impacting Idaho’s efforts to restore the populations” said Senator Risch. “I’m grateful to Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson for making this a committee priority and for quickly advancing our bill.”

Support for this legislation is bipartisan and crosses multiple Pacific Northwest states. The governors of Washington, Idaho, and Oregon wrote to the Northwest Senate delegation in support of the bill, and the four chairs of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission have all voiced their support. The National Congress of American Indians has called the legislation “essential” to protect salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon.

“Congressional action is critical to reducing the numbers of sea lions that prey on salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin,” said Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife spokesman Bruce Botka. “We welcome the Senate’s progress and look forward to final passage of legislation that will enable the Northwest states and our tribal partners to better protect endangered fish.”

“We applaud the bi-partisan leadership of Senators Cantwell and Risch to get unanimous support today from the Senate Commerce Committee for S. 3119. The bill will expand the ongoing efforts of tribal and state co-managers who have collaborated both on the river and in Congress to address sea lion predation. This legislation reconciles two important conservation laws while it also recognizes the four treaty tribes expertise and role as caretakers of ancestral resources in the lower Columbia River basin,” said Jaime Pinkham, Executive Director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

“This bill provides a thoughtful and practical approach to addressing sea lion predation in critical areas of the Columbia River,” said Guido Rahr, President of the Wild Salmon Center. “It also for the first time enables managers to respond before the number and habits of sea lions become an insurmountable problem for returning wild salmon and steelhead populations. Salmon recovery requires a multi-faceted response. We appreciate the leadership of Senator Cantwell on this issue.”

“Senator Cantwell has stepped up during a crisis and delivered a solution to prevent extinction of fragile Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead stocks. The businesses of NSIA are appreciative of the Senator’s leadership in resolving this very tough issue. All who care about salmon recovery, food for Southern Resident Killer Whales, and have jobs that depend on healthy fish stocks owe Senator Cantwell our deepest gratitude,” said Liz Hamilton, Executive Director of the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association.

“Sea lions are killing as many as 43 percent of the spring-migrating Chinook salmon in the Columbia River, including threatened and endangered species. This is an immediate problem that needs an immediate solution, a more streamlined and effective process for removing the most problematic sea lions,”said Guy Norman, a Washington member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. “The bill enables states and tribes to deal with a major bottleneck to salmon survival. It’s a big win for the fish and for the people of the Northwest who are deeply invested in salmon recovery.

Federal, state, and tribal governments and other organizations have made significant conservation and restoration investments throughout the Pacific Northwest. Sea lion populations have increased significantly along the West Coast over the past 40 years; today, there are roughly 300,000. These sea lions have entered into habitat where they had never been before, including areas around the Bonneville Dam and Willamette Falls.

recent study by Oregon State University found that increasing predation from sea lions has decreased the fishery harvest of adult Chinook salmon in the Pacific Northwest. According to the study, if sea lions continue their current salmon consumption habits, there is an 89 percent chance that a population of wild steelhead could go extinct. The study also noted that future long-term salmon management plans will need to address the increased salmon predation throughout the Pacific Northwest.

Companion legislation has already passed in the U.S. House of Representatives.


The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation today passed a legislative proposal by U.S. Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA) that would give state and tribal managers more flexibility in addressing predatory sea lions in the Columbia River system that are threatening both ESA-listed salmon and steelhead. S. 3119, the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, passed without objection and will be considered next on the Senate floor. Companion legislation has already passed the House.

“Threatened and endangered species of salmon are being damaged by sea lions in the Columbia River, severely impacting Idaho’s efforts to restore the populations,” said Senator Risch. “I’m grateful to Chairman Thune and Ranking Member Nelson for making this a committee priority and for quickly advancing our bill.”

“Wild salmon are central to the culture, economy, and tribal treaty rights of the Pacific Northwest and protecting these fish is crucial to the health of Southern resident orcas,” said Senator Cantwell. “This science-based, bipartisan bill enhances existing tools that state and tribal wildlife managers need to address salmon predation, protect the health of sea lion stocks, and ensure that we are managing wildlife based on the best science available. Pacific salmon should be protected for generations to come.”

There are ESA threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead being significantly harmed by the increasing sea lion population. This predation of ESA-listed fish is negating the large investments being spent on salmon recovery associated with habitat, harvest, and hatcheries. If enacted, this bill would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 to provide for better management of these invasive, non-listed sea lions.

Anglers Urged To Contact US Senators In Support Of Salmon-Sea Lion Bill

Northwest anglers are being urged to contact their U.S. senators to support a bill that would give salmon managers more leverage to deal with problematic pinnipeds.


The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act, S 3119, is expected to go before the Senate’s Commerce Committee this Wednesday.

With sea lions chewing up ESA-listed Chinook and steelhead, as well as other stocks, in the Columbia and its tribs, the bill would tweak the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow state and tribal to remove as many as an additional 100 a year.

The Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association’s Liz Hamilton is urging people to call their two senators to “ask them to support the bill, and let them know that failure is not an option here. And be sure to thank them!”

The exact same bill, HR 2083, passed the U.S. House late last month with yes votes from every single Idaho, Oregon and Washington representative.

The Senate version is cosponsored by Idaho’s James Risch (R) and Washington’s Maria Cantwell (D) and was introduced in mid-June.

“Pacific salmon are central to our culture, our livelihoods, and our economy in the Pacific Northwest,” Cantwell said. “Taxpayers throughout Washington, Idaho, and Oregon have made significant investments in Pacific salmon restoration, and we must continue to support science-based management methods to ensure future generations have access to wild Pacific Northwest salmon.”

Cantwell’s office can be reached at (202) 224-3441.

Washington’s other U.S. Senator, Patty Murray, can be reached at  (202) 224-2621.

Oregon Senator Ron Wyden can be reached at (202) 224-5244 while Senator Jeff Merkley can be reached at (202) 224-3753.

Since 2008, Northwest states have had the authority to move sea lions preying on salmon and steelhead below Bonneville Dam, including to euthanize the worst offenders.

Both bills in Congress would expand that down to the I-205 bridge over the Columbia and in any of its tribs with ESA-listed stocks.

And it would allow for NOAA to not only issue one-year permits to the states but also to a number of tribes including the Nez Perce, Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama and Cowlitz, as well as the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

Last year, a CRITFC employee died on the way to perform sea lion counts after the boat he was on capsized due to strong winds.

It’s notable that both the House’s and Senate’s sea lion bills have received bipartisan support from the Northwest’s federal lawmakers.

“I want to thank my colleague Senator Risch for working with me on this bipartisan, science-based solution that will help protect salmon for future generations,” said Cantwell, who is a Democrat of the Idaho Republican.