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HASTINGS, BAIRD TAKE AIM AT SEA LIONS PREYING ON ENDANGERED SALMON
Lawmakers Unveil Bipartisan Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act

October 16, 2006

Bonneville Dam, WA - Congressman Doc Hastings and Congressman Brian Baird today announced a bill they have introduced that aims to reduce the predation of endangered Columbia River salmon by sea lions.  The lawmakers made the announcement at the Bonneville Dam - where aggressive sea lion predation on fish listed as endangered has been observed in recent years.

"Lethal removal of the most aggressive sea lions is necessary to deter predation and help protect endangered salmon as they return to spawn," the lawmakers said.   
 
"When we're spending hundreds of millions per year in direct spending on salmon recovery, our region cannot afford to ignore the impact of these sea lions," said Hastings. 
 
"This bill is another tool to use in limited situations after all other options have been exhausted.  It will send a strong message that the 'all-you-can-eat' salmon buffet at Bonneville Dam is closed," said Baird.
 
The Hastings-Baird plan creates a temporary expedited process for the states of Washington and Oregon and the four Columbia River treaty tribes to obtain permits for the lethal removal of a limited number of California sea lions preying on salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River.  The streamlined process can be used in cases where non-lethal methods to discourage sea lion predation have been shown to be ineffective. 
 
California sea lions are having a significant impact on spring salmon returns.  In recent years, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has observed that thousands of returning salmon are killed by sea lions in the area around Bonneville Dam alone. 
 
Despite dramatic population increases in recent decades, California sea lions, like all marine mammals, enjoy strong federal protection making it virtually impossible to remove them.  Under current law it can take 3 to 5 years for wildlife managers to get permission from the federal government to remove aggressive sea lions.  The existing process has never been successfully used. 
 
Safeguards are included in the bill to ensure that the overall California sea lion population is not impacted.
 
"This measure provides critical support for salmon recovery on the Columbia River," said Jeff Koenings, director of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife.  "It provides fishery managers with a needed option in the effort to restore the balance between sea lions and listed salmon populations in areas where those fish are particularly vulnerable."
 
"We are grateful that Congressmen Hastings, Baird, Dicks and Walden have introduced this important bill and we hope the Congress will act on it expeditiously and certainly before next year's spring runs," said
Lavina Washines, Chairwoman of the Tribal Council of the Yakama Nation. 

"Salmon are critically important to the Yakama people. They are essential to our diet, to our culture and to our economy. The right of continuing to take salmon was one of the most important things our forefathers negotiated for in our Treaty. We hope our friends in the environmental and animal rights communities will understand that salmon have become endangered while sea lions have proliferated in numbers. We hope our friends will be concerned about endangered and threatened salmon being further damaged by a species that is not now in need of protection and will be supportive of our efforts and those of other fishery managers to deal with a limited number of problem sea lions"

Original cosponsors of the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act, H.R. 6241, are Congressman Norm Dicks and Congressman Greg Walden.

 
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