The Humane Society of
the United States on Dec. 5 filed notice that they will appeal
a Nov. 26 district court judgment that gave the green light
for the removal of California sea lions that prey on salmon
below the Columbia River's Bonneville Dam.
organization's attorneys are now in discussions with other
parties to the lawsuit regarding a briefing schedule that
would be submitted to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth
Circuit, according to the HSUS's Sharon Young.
"It's not in anybody's interest for it to drag on," Young
said of the ongoing legal battle over whether the states of
Oregon and Washington should be allowed to relocate or kill
sea lions that feast each year on returning salmon spawners
that are searching for the dam's fish ladders. Some of the
stocks eaten during the pinnipeds' annual spring visit are
listed under the Endangered Species Act.
When litigation was launched last spring participants
expressed a desire for expedited legal processes at the
district and appellate court levels so that a resolution could
be reached before 2009's arrival of spring chinook salmon, and
sea lions. An agreement reached by the litigants, and endorsed
in district court, prevents the removal of any of the marine
mammals until March 1.
The states' application for permission to remove pinnipeds
was granted in March by the NOAA Fisheries Service after
consideration through a process outlined in Section 120 of the
Marine Mammal Protection Act.
HSUS, Wild Fish Conservancy and two individuals challenged
the decision in U.S. District Court. They asked the court to
set aside the decision granting five-year authorization for
California sea lion removal.
The NOAA decision authorized the taking of up to 85
California each year, but says it is unlikely that more than
30 could be removed annually.
HSUS alleged that the federal agency violated the
Administrative Procedure Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act
and the National Environmental Policy Act.
In a Nov. 26 opinion and order Judge Michael W. Mosman said
NOAA complied with the law.
"Viewing NMFS's actions in light of the APA's deferential
standard, NMFS properly evaluated whether individually
identifiable pinnipeds were having a significant negative
impact on the decline or recovery of salmonids," Mosman said.
During two weeks of trapping last May Washington and Oregon
wildlife managers captured seven California sea lions for
relocation to zoological facilities. Six sea lions were flown
to SeaWorld facilities in Orlando, Fla., and San Antonio, Tex.
One of the animals died when it failed to resume breathing
after being sedated for a health examination.
The trapping was ended in May after six pinnipeds -- four
California and two Steller sea lions -- were found dead in the
traps. The trap doors had been left open but somehow closed
overnight, trapping the sea lions inside. It was determined
that the animals died of heat prostration. NOAA launched an
investigation to determine how the doors became closed but has
yet to announce any findings.