members of the Northwest’s congressional delegation, one a Republican, the
other a Democrat, introduced a bill this week that would make it easier for
tribes and states to obtain permits to remove sea lions from the Bonneville Dam
Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act would allow both
tribes and states to remove sea lions near Bonneville Dam. While the removal
program as proposed by the bill would still be subject to and limited by
Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, it would more closely be
brought into alignment with the Endangered Species Act, according to the
Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
by U.S. Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR), the bill
would allow Northwest states and tribes to potentially obtain sea lion removal
permits via an expedited process.
community prioritizes protecting salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River
because they are central to our way of life in the Pacific Northwest,” said
Herrera Beutler. “The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act
is critical because sea lion predation is posing a serious threat to our salmon
populations, impacting our efforts to ensure their survival. With this
solution, we have to tools to better protect the salmon so vital to our
recreational, cultural and economic interests.”
legislation would allow for what the tribes call “active management” of the
growing Columbia River sea lion population.
the last few years, we’ve seen a record number of California and Steller sea
lions in the Columbia River from Astoria to Bonneville Dam,” Schrader said.
“These sea lions pose a real threat to the salmon in the river that BPA
ratepayers and my constituents pay hundreds of millions of dollars annually as
part of the largest mitigation program in the country for threatened and
lions are present in numbers that are inconsistent with their historic range,
need to eliminate this threat to our iconic Oregon salmon that are struggling
to survive,” Schrader said. “I’ve been working with Rep. Herrera Beutler and
our states, tribes, and local communities for several years now on solutions to
save our salmon, and this legislation will provide the states and tribal
members the authority they need to eliminate this threat once and for all.”
tribes are working hard to restore ecological balance to a highly altered and
degraded river system. The Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered
Species Act are thoughtful laws, however they need to be reconciled with one
another,” said Leland Bill, chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish
Commission. “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.”
number of unique individual sea lions congregating at the base of Bonneville
Dam in spring 2016 was the second largest number of the pinnipeds observed
since the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began counting the animals in 2002.
to a recent Corps report, an evaluation of pinniped predation on salmon,
steelhead and other fish species at the dam from January through May 2016,
California and Steller sea lions that show up in the spring ate the second
largest number of salmonids – spring chinook salmon and steelhead – and the
largest proportion of the run last year than in any year since the Corps began
its observations. Many are listed under the federal Endangered Species Act.
report, “Evaluation of pinniped predation on adult salmonids and other fish in
the Bonneville Dam tailrace, 2016,” is at http://www.nwd-wc.usace.army.mil/tmt/documents/fish/2016/Pinniped_2016.pdf. Study authors are
Patricia L. Madson, Bjorn K. van der Leeuw, Karrie M. Gibbons, and Thomas H.
Van Hevelingen, all with the Corps.
190 unique individual pinnipeds were documented last spring: 149 California sea
lions, 41 Steller sea lions, and no harbor seals, according to the report. The
maximum number of pinnipeds observed at the project on any one day was 120, but
the daily mean was 28.8 pinnipeds (10.8 California sea lions and 18 Steller sea
lions). Observations in 2015 found 264 pinnipeds at the dam.
observers saw sea lions take 9,525 salmonids or 5.8 percent of the entire adult
salmon run during the January through May period.
CBB, March 10, 2017, “Corps Report: Sea Lions In Bonneville Dam Tailrace In
2016 Consumed 4.5 Percent Of Spring Chinook,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/438453.aspx)
2017 legislation mirrors a proposal in January 2015, also introduced by Herrera
Beutler and Schrader, as well as proposals introduced in the three previous
years by now-retired Washington Rep. Doc Hastings.
CBB, January 30, 2015, “Legislation Proposes Expedited Process For Tribes,
States To Lethally Remove Salmon-Eating Sea Lions,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/433017.aspx)
spring chinook loss, coupled with the growing sea lion population, has placed
us in an emergency situation,” said Bill. “This legislation would give us the
flexibility to address the current sea lion situation so conflicts with at-risk
species can be managed.”
lion populations have seen a resurgence under the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
In 1972 when the MMPA was passed, the California sea lion population hovered
around 30,000 animals, CRITFC said. The population is now over 300,000.
20 percent of the spring runs endeavoring to return to their spawning grounds
are being taken by sea lions,” said a press release from the Confederated
Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. “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
cannot pretend that this is just nature at work when man has so altered the
natural balance that might have otherwise made it a fair fight. Now the fish
are at too great a disadvantage for the well-intended but naïve protectors of
sea lions to say that man should butt out of the sea lion versus salmon issue.”
June 17, 2016, “Final 2016 Pinniped Report: Sea Lion Salmon Take Astoria To
Bonneville Dam Could Be 20 Percent Of Run,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/436941.aspx
CBB, June 19, 2015, “Final 2015 Sea Lion Predation Report: 8,474 Salmonids
Taken Below Bonneville, Twice 10-Year Average,” http://www.cbbulletin.com/434287.aspx