Jaime Herrera Beutler

The National Marine Fisheries Service anticipates having a decision on whether to allow the killing of sea lions to protect salmon populations in the Columbia River by fall, according to a letter received by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler May 12.

Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, announced she received correspondence from National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries West Coast Regional Administrator Barry Thom stating that a task force would meet remotely this week to discuss a recommendation either to approve or deny an application from a number of agencies from multiple states and tribal governments to allow for culling of sea lions.

The application was for the agencies, including the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife among others, for authorization “to intentionally take, by lethal methods, California sea lions and Steller sea lions” on the Columbia River from 112 miles from the river mouth to the McNary Dam close to 200 miles upstream, “or in any tributary to the Columbia River that includes spawning habitat of threatened or endangered salmon or steelhead,” according to Thom’s letter.

A 22-member task force had a remote meeting planned from May 12-14 to eventually provide a recommendation to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the letter stated, adjusting the meeting with regard to restrictions on in-person meetings in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“ Despite the current pandemic, NMFS still anticipates making this decision by the fall of 2020, in advance of problem sea lions returning to the Columbia River,” Thom wrote.

“The survival of our native fish hinges on timely and decisive action, so I’m heartened that NOAA is working quickly to implement the sea lion control efforts I fought so hard to put into law,” Herrera Beutler said. “I look forward to the fall completion date for sea lion approval permits, and will continue working closely with NOAA to make sure it’s doing everything possible to stick to this timeline.”

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