Congresswoman promotes drastic measures to save salmon from sea lions

Congresswoman promotes drastic measures to save salmon from sea lions

Outdoors

Congresswoman promotes drastic measures to save salmon from sea lions

A sea lion enjoys a salmon meal below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River. Photo: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Scores of salmon congregate below the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River and become sitting ducks to sea lions, which enjoy an all-you-can-eat buffet of salmon as the fish wait for turns up the fish ladder leading to their spawning grounds.

For years, local officials have attempted to scare the sea lions away with legal harassment tactics—cracker shotgun shells and seal bombs—but to no avail.

“We’re losing the battle,” Doug Hatch, a senior fishery scientist for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, told The Columbian. “We’re losing it for sure. We need more lethal removal of sea lions. The hazing is not the answer.”

The solution, local officials and lawmakers believe, is issuing permits that allow the killing of up to 100 sea lions a year. That would mean an amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which has given sea lions protection since 1972.

On Wednesday, Republican Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler, who represents southwest Washington’s Third District, toured the Columbia River and the Bonneville Dam area in an effort to promote her bipartisan bill, the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act.

“Sea lions have eaten 45 percent of the returning spring chinook salmon,” Herrera Beutler wrote on Facebook. “This is not a healthy ecosystem. Methods up to this point to control the sea lion population are not working, and now we are nearing one possible future where whole runs of these fish species are extinct.”

Steelhead, sturgeon and other fish would also benefit from lesser numbers of predatory sea lions.

Hatch told The Columbian that the limited number of sea lions removed “would have zero impact on the population.”

Herrera Beutler and Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., have told congressional leaders that the bill is a must-pass.

Also on BNQT Outdoors: Monster sturgeon nearly lands on kayak fisherman; video

The bill has been approved by congressional committee and awaits a vote by the full U.S. House of Representatives, KGW8 News reported.

“The saying ‘it takes an act of Congress’ is such because it’s a laborious process,” Herrera Beutler told The Columbian. “I try to explain to people it’s like farming, you plant the seed, you till the ground, oftentimes it takes a while before you get a real crop.

“I think there’s just more of a willingness now. Our goal is to get a number of our Washington and Oregon Republicans and Democrats both in the House and in the Senate on this bill.”

Full support of the bill from both houses is the ultimate goal, one desperately needed to save the endangered salmon.

Photo of sea lion eating a salmon used by permission from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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