The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has authorized using lethal removal of sea lions on the Columbia River to protect salmon populations, with U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler hailing the move as a step forward to implement federal legislation she has supported.
NOAA announced Aug. 14 that a task force had endorsed implementing the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act, legislation signed into law in 2018. The administration stated that the new law amends the Marine Mammal Protection Act, allowing for removal of sea lions in a stretch of the Columbia River and its tributaries intended to cut down on predation of salmon and steelhead.
“Today marks an important milestone in the bipartisan effort I’ve led to protect our endangered salmon and steelhead runs in the Northwest. With NOAA’s approval of these permits, wildlife managers can now finally take action and implement the sea lion control measure that tribes, fishermen, scientists, conservationists and local leaders have been calling for to preserve our native fish runs,” Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said in a statement following the announcement.
A number of governments were approved to take part in removal, both at the state and tribal levels, including:
• States of Oregon, Washington and Idaho
• The Nez Perce Tribe
• The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation
• The Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon
• The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation
• The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community
• The Confederated Tribes of the Siletz Indians of Oregon
Those governments “are now authorized to lethally remove or place in captivity California sea lions and Steller sea lions,” Herrera Beutler’s statement indicated.
Areas included in the authorization include the mainstem of the Columbia River from the Interstate 205 bridge to the McNary Dam, and any tributary that includes spawning habitat for threatened salmon and steelhead, according to Herrera Beutler’s release.
NOAA stated the authorized removals were only a “small fraction” of sea lion populations, leading to “negligible impacts” on their viability, according to the release. No more than 540 California sea lions and no more than 176 Stellar sea lions could be removed through 2025.
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