WASHINGTON, D.C. -House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings this past Tuesday introduced bipartisan legislation aimed at protecting endangered Columbia River salmon from predation by California sea lions.
The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act would allow for lethal removal of the most aggressive sea lions in order to deter predation and help protect endangered salmon as they return to spawn.
"As Northwest residents spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to protect salmon, California sea lions camp out at Bonneville Dam and gorge themselves on endangered fish," said Hastings.
"With all other methods exhausted, lethal removal of the most aggressive sea lions is often the only option left to deter predation, help protect endangered salmon and recoup more of our region's substantial investment in salmon recovery," he added.
The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act would allow the states of Washington and Oregon, as well as the four Columbia River treaty tribes to obtain one-year permits for the lethal removal of a limited number of California sea lions preying on salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River.
In recent years, more than 1,000 California sea lions have entered the lower 205 miles of the Columbia River and feasted on fish.
Last spring alone, California sea lions consumed an estimated 5,000 adult endangered salmon.
As salmon populations recover and record runs of salmon return to the Columbia River to spawn, the sea lion populations have substantially increased and are a growing threat to endangered salmon runs, said Hastings.
Despite dramatic population increases in recent decades, sea lions enjoy strong federal protection, making it virtually impossible to remove them.
The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act was first introduced in 2006. Hastings' decision to renew his push for this legislation comes on the heels of an announcement by the National Marine Fisheries Service that it will not appeal a ruling by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that would block states and tribal entities from lethally removing California sea lions that feast on endangered salmon in Washington, Oregon and Idaho.
The House Natural Resources Committee has jurisdiction over the legislation.