Portland, Oregon – Tribal and State fisheries managers in the Columbia Basin may gain a new tool to address sea lion predation below Bonneville Dam with today’s introduction of the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act. Introduced by Representative Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), the legislation would clear up inconsistencies and red-tape hampering existing law to allow more effective management of alarming predation levels by California sea lions. Tribal leaders have consistently supported the efforts of the Northwest Congressional delegation to amend Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act for greater clarity and efficiency. Tribal leaders are particularly supportive of a key provision in the bill that would provide the Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama, and Nez Perce tribes with access to the same authorities currently available only to states.
“Our tribes are working hard to restore balance, wherever we can, in a highly altered and degraded river system. The Marine Mammal Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act are thoughtful laws that need to be reconciled with one another. The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act honors the underlying intent of both laws while providing professional fisheries managers with tools to manage both Protected and Endangered Species,” explained Paul Lumley, executive director for the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.
The proposed legislation accelerates the process for granting lethal take authority; limits the cumulative level of lethal take to 1% of annual biological potential removal level; further limits the lethal take to 10 animals per permit holder; and spurs the Secretary of Commerce to report on any additional legislation needed to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act within two years.
Predation by California Sea Lions on threatened and endangered salmon populations has been a concern of the tribes since 2002 when 31 sea lions arrived at Bonneville Dam. Sea lion counts and their total salmonid predation has continued to grow. State and Tribal biologists estimate 20% of the spring Chinook run is killed by sea lions in the Columbia estuary below Bonneville Dam.
For more information on sea lion predation at Bonneville Dam visit the CRITFC’s sea lion page https://critfc.org/sealion/sealion.html. This website provides links to a fact sheet, video of predation, hazing activity, and photos of damage done to migrating salmon by sea lions.