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Ecology and salmon related articles

Appeals Court Expedites Briefing, Oral Arguments
on Challenge to Lethal Sea Lion Removal

by Staff
Columbia Basin Bulletin, March 29, 2013

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit this week agreed to expedite consideration of an appeal filed earlier this month requesting that a federal decision authorizing lethal sea lion removals from the Columbia River be declared illegal.

The appeal asks that the Ninth Circuit overturn a Feb. 19 U.S. District Court opinion upholding the NOAA Fisheries Service authorization decision.

The initial briefing schedule issued March 13 by the appellate court would have begun June 20 and ended Aug. 5. Oral arguments potentially would have followed at an undermined date with a judicial decision to follow.

The newly approved briefing schedule would be completed eight weeks earlier. The opening brief is due April 22; the answering brief is due June 5, and the optional reply brief is due June 17.

The court says the case will be calendared for oral arguments as soon as possible.

In making its request for expedited proceedings the HSUS said it "understands that without an expedited oral argument date, it may be more than year until the Court hears the appeal and renders a decision."

The bulk of the trapping and sea lion removals carried out by the states of Oregon and Washington has taken place in the springtime, typically from sometime in March to sometime in May. Four of the 54 animals removed since 2008 were captured in the fall near Astoria, Ore.

The lawsuit concerns a NOAA Fisheries decision under Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to authorize lethal removal of California sea lions seen eating salmon at Bonneville Dam. In 2010, the Ninth Circuit vacated and remanded a 2008 authorization, "because NMFS failed to adequately explain why killing sea lions was appropriate in light of the much greater impacts to salmon caused by fisheries and dam operations permitted by the agency," HSUS said in its motion to expedite.

A May 2012 reauthorization issued by NOAA Fisheries was upheld in a U.S. District Court decision issued by Judge Michael H. Simon on Feb. 15. That decision was quickly appealed to the Ninth Circuit.

The HSUS request notes that the federal appeals court has cited the likelihood of "irreparable harm" as justification for expedited proceedings.

"Here, HSUS will be irreparably harmed because, as a direct result of the authorization, individual sea lions who would otherwise be protected by the MMPA can now be killed at any time until the authorization expires in 2016."

Appeals Court Expedites Briefing, Oral Arguments on Challenge to Lethal Sea Lion Removal
Columbia Basin Bulletin, March 29, 2013

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