Bill Supports Killing
by Chris Holmstrom
BONNEVILLE DAM, Ore. -- A group of lawmakers is pushing a bill aimed at reducing the number of sea lions that reside in the Bonneville Dam, claiming they endanger fish populations.
Jaime Herrera Beutler joined U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader to introduce a bill to improve the survival of endangered fish species in the Columbia River system. The bill would authorize the use of lethal force to remove sea lions in the area.
KOIN 6 News spoke to Tood Mohr, who grew up near the Bonneville Dam. Mohr said the sea lion population in the area has grown tremendously in recent years. In 2010, there were around 80 sea lions in the dam -- last year, the number rose to 616.
"They are killing a lot of fish, they are killing a lot of salmon," Mohr said. "They don't eat the whole fish. They just take a bite out of the fish, kill it, then they are done with it."
Wildlife experts agree that sea lions are hurting the salmon and steelhead populations. Each year, between the Bonneville Dam and the mouth of the Columbia River, sea lions are credited with killing thousands of fish.
"The mammal protection act has worked and has protected the sea lions, but it's protecting them to the state where they now are a negative impact," Kat Brigham, with the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said.
Brigham told KOIN 6 News if something isn't done soon, it could ruin the recovery efforts for salmon and steelhead.
"We are not just going to say, 'hey go shoot them,'" Brigham said. "There's going to be a process that we are all going to have to go through."
Some animal rights advocates, including the U.S. Humane Society, are trying to put a stop to the killing of sea lions -- they believe it is inhumane and illegal.
If the bill is passed, it will move on to the Senate.
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