Rainier Man Pleads Guilty to
by Staff and Wire Reports
PORTLAND -- A Rainier man pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court to trying to kill a sea lion in the Willamette River, a violation of the 1972 Marine Mammals Protection Act, federal prosecutors said.
A plea agreement requires James Housley, 62, to forfeit his fishing license for one year, forfeit the gun he used and pay a fine.
The government has agreed to seek a year's probation and a $5,000 fine but Housley could receive up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine under the misdemeanor charge. Sentencing is set for Oct. 31.
Reached by telephone Tuesday, Housley would not comment on the case itself. He did, however, grumble about sea lions, which he considers not only a threat to salmon runs but to the safety of fisherman.
"They ain't going to do anything about those damn sea lions," he said.
Housley shot the animal April 18 as it swam in the Multnomah Channel of the Willamette River off Sauvie Island.
Court documents allege he violated the 1972 law by "harassing and attempting to kill a sea lion." Prosecutors say Housley was fishing and became frustrated that a sea lion had taken a salmon off a companion's line and shot the animal twice in the head. It's not known whether it survived the shooting.
This spring, U.S. Reps. Brian Baird, D-Wash., and Doc Hastings, R-Wash., proposed a bill making it easier to kill the most aggressive of the sea lions.
"They've gotta do something about them," Housley said Tuesday. "I know darn well it's only a matter of time before someone's killed. Those darn sea lions will overturn their boat. If that happens before (legislation passes), I hope the federal government's proud of themselves."
The animals have been blamed for taking a large chunk out of the spring salmon run in the Columbia River. They gather each spring just below Bonneville Dam to swim up the fish ladders to spawning grounds.
Oregon, Washington and Idaho have a separate proposal to make it easier to kill troublesome sea lions under terms of the protection act, something attempted previously only in Washington's Puget Sound.
A task force will meet in Portland in September to discuss the proposal.
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