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Commentaries and editorials

House Natural Resources Committee Passes Bill
to Expedite Sea Lion Removal in Columbia River

by Columbia Basin Bulletin
Chinook Observer, October 14, 2016

38 sea lions killed at Bonneville Dam in 2016. The House Committee on Natural Resources has passed H.R. 564, the "Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act," which authorizes the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to issue one-year permits to Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and several tribal groups to lethally take non-endangered sea lions in order to protect endangered and threatened species of salmon.

"Salmon are central to our way of life in the Pacific Northwest, but right now sea lion predation is posing a serious threat to our salmon populations," said U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), one of the sponsors. "Significant resources are invested to ensure their survival, but we're being poor stewards of these resources if we don't also manage the threat of an exploding sea lion population. With this solution, we can better protect the salmon so vital to our recreational, cultural and economic interests."

"By giving temporary management authority to Pacific Northwest states and tribes to address California sea lion predation of salmon, this legislation balances the needs of wildlife in the Columbia River and its tributaries," said U.S. Rep. Dan Newhouse (R-WA).

The legislation, which mirrors proposals introduced the previous three years by now-retired Washington Rep. Doc Hastings, would allow Northwest states and tribes to potentially obtain sea lion removal permits via an expedited process. The proposal was approved once by the House of Representatives but didn't make it out of committee the other two years. The Senate has yet to vote on the proposed amendment to the MMPA.

Herrera Beutler and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) introduced the bill last year with the goal of enhancing fish and wildlife managers' abilities to reduce predation on threatened and endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species in the Columbia River system by removing predators such as sea lions.

If passed by Congress the proposal would allow tribal members and government fish managers to remove California sea lions and harbor seals from specific areas where they are posing harm to protected salmon and steelhead.

The proposed legislation if approved would accelerate the process for granting lethal take authority to eight eligible entities -- the states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington, the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs and Yakama tribes and the Columbia Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. The bill would require NOAA Fisheries to respond to permit applications within 30 days.

The overall lethal take would be limited to 1 percent of annual potential biological removal level; further limits the lethal take to 10 animals per permit holder. The MMPA defines the PBR as the maximum number of animals, not including natural mortalities, that may be removed from a marine mammal stock while allowing that stock to reach or maintain its optimum sustainable population.

Columbia Basin Bulletin
House Natural Resources Committee Passes Bill to Expedite Sea Lion Removal in Columbia River
Chinook Observer, October 14, 2016

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