Hastings Makes Another Run
by Kyung M. Song
WASHINGTON -- Rep. Doc Hasting is making another attempt to prevent California sea lions from gorging on Columbia River salmon, introducing a bill Tuesday that would allow for killing the most aggressive eaters.
Under the Pasco Republican's bill -- The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act -- Washington, Oregon and four Columbia River treaty tribes could seek one-year permits for "lethal removal" of a limited number of sea lions.
The legislation is meant to offer a temporary fast track over the lengthy process of obtaining federal permits to kill the sea lions, which are protected under the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.
Hastings first sponsored the bill in 2006. Then, as now, his co-sponsors included Reps. Norm Dicks, D-Bremerton, and Greg Walden, an Oregon Republican. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, the Republican freshman from Washington's 3rd congressional district, also is a co-sponsor.
Hastings argues that culling the California sea lion population is justified given the hundreds of millions of dollars spent to protect salmon in the Northwest.
According to the House Natural Resources Committee, which Hastings chairs, some 1,000 California sea lions have been entering the lower 205 miles of the Columbia River for salmon and steelhead.
"With all other methods exhausted, lethal removal of the most aggressive sea lions is often the only option left to deter predation, help protect endangered salmon and recoup more of our region's substantial investment in salmon recovery," Hastings said in a statement.
Spencer Pederson, a committee spokesman, said the average number of sea lions spotted by the Army Corps of Engineers at Bonneville Dam rose to about 120 last year. The Corps estimates that the animals ate some 6,000 salmon, a third more than the year before.
The bill would permit an entity to kill up to 10 sea lions. It does not define how much eating qualifies as being aggressive.
Environmentalists have argued that the sea lions consumlle only a fraction of salmon runs and that poution and other habitat problems for the fish are a bigger concern.
Survival of Snake River Salmon & Steelhead Data compiled July 2004 by www.bluefish.org
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