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Commentaries and editorials

Sea Lions Targeted

by Editors
The Columbian, October 19, 2006

U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Wash, right, and Brian Baird, D-Wash., stand near Bonneville Dam and the Columbia River in North Bonneville, Wash., Monday, Oct. 16, 2006, as they announce a new legislative initiative aimed at protecting endangered Columbia River salmon and steelhead from sea lion predation. Fishery officials have tried just about everything to keep sea lions from munching on threatened Somewhere sea lions are arguing like humans about whether they prefer Republicans or Democrats.

Their debate became even more unresolved this week as two Northwest congressmen from each party announced sponsorship of a bill that urges the killing of sea lions around Bonneville Dam. Then, one from each party stepped forward to launch the event at a dam site photo opportunity.

U.S. Reps. Brian Baird, D-Vancouver, and Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, appeared together at the dam 40 miles up the Columbia River from Vancouver to say they will introduce a bill to allow lethal control of salmon-devouring sea lions. Reps. Norm Dicks, D-Wash., and Greg Walden, R-Ore., are joining them in sponsorship. They're calling it the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act, but we suspect the sea lions are calling it something else, perhaps the Last Throes of Our Bonneville Buffet.

As much as we dislike the idea of killing an animal that (technically) is still on the endangered species list, our response to the Baird-Hastings bill is quite simple: Lock and load.

Yes, the sea lion was placed on the list in 1972 when fewer than 1,500 existed in waters around California. But 34 years later, there are more than 200,000 sea lions, and many are charging more than 140 miles up the Columbia River to feast on endangered salmon. About 100 sea lions are believed to be killing about 3 percent of the returning spring chinook salmon that make it to the dam.

In addition to the salmon-protection aspect of the new bill, there's a more basic financial concern defined by Hastings: "When we're spending hundreds of millions per year ... on salmon recovery, our region cannot afford to ignore the impact of these sea lions."

Using lethal control of one species to protect another is not a new concept, and it's needed now on the Columbia River. Sorry, sea lions, but stay in your ocean.

Sea Lions Targeted
The Columbian, October 19, 2006

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