Oregon, Washington Allowed
by Scott Learn
PORTLAND -- A federal U.S. judge has refused to stop Oregon and Washington from trapping and killing California sea lions at Bonneville Dam this spring to keep them from gobbling endangered salmon. The Humane Society of the U.S. filed a lawsuit against the plan and asked for a preliminary court injunction to stop it.
Humane Society lawyers argued culling sea lions won't significantly benefit threatened salmon and steelhead runs. But shooting the animals would harm Columbia River kayakers and others who have relationships with individual sea lions, they said.
U.S. District Judge Michael Mosman rejected the injunction request, noting fishing kills more salmon listed under the Endangered Species Act. But initial evidence indicates sea lions do "very serious" harm to endangered and threatened salmon, he said. "It's a rather remarkable thing to say that (destroying) an individual animal will cause irreparable harm." He later called the Humane Society's evidence of damage "far less weighty" than the government's.
State officials could begin trapping sea lions as early as Tuesday, targeting animals that have been seen eating federally protected fish at the dam. The plan authorizes capturing and killing up to 85 sea lions a year for five years. But the states' goal is to capture 30 this year, with priority given to relocating the animals to captive environments such as Sea World and the St. Louis Zoo.
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