Se­nate passes bill mak­ing it eas­ier to kill sea lions

The Olympian - - Local - BY PHUONG LE As­so­ci­ated Press

A bill that would make it eas­ier to kill sea lions that feast on im­per­iled salmon in the Columbia River has cleared the U.S. Se­nate.

State wildlife man­agers say re­bound­ing num­bers of sea lions are eat­ing more salmon than ever and their ap­petites are un­der­min­ing bil­lions of dol­lars of in­vest­ments to re­store en­dan­gered fish runs.

Se­nate Bill 3119, which passed Thurs­day by unan­i­mous con­sent, would stream­line the process for Wash­ing­ton, Idaho, Ore­gon and sev­eral Pa­cific North­west Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes to cap­ture and eu­th­a­nize po­ten­tially hun­dreds of sea lions found in the river east of Port­land, Ore­gon.

Sen. Jim Risch, an Idaho Re­pub­li­can who co-spon­sored the bill with se­na­tors from all three states, said the leg­is­la­tion would help en­sure healthy pop­u­la­tions of salmon for years to come.

“As en­dan­gered salmon face ex­tinc­tion, we must take steps to pro­tect them,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Wash­ing­ton Demo­crat, said in a state­ment.

The Se­nate bill is sim­i­lar to one passed by the U.S. House in June and spon­sored by Reps. Jaime Her­rera Beut­ler, a Wash­ing­ton Re­pub­li­can, Kurt Schrader, an Ore­gon Demo­crat, and oth­ers.

The House will have to con­sider the Se­nate’s bill, or vice versa, be­fore it heads to Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump for con­sid­er­a­tion. “We have rea­son to be­lieve they will by the end of the year,” said Kaylin Min­ton, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor for Risch.

Sup­port­ers, in­clud­ing the gov­er­nors of Ore­gon, Wash­ing­ton and Idaho, fish­ing groups and tribes, say the bill will give wildlife man­agers greater flex­i­bil­ity in con­trol­ling Cal­i­for­nia sea lions that dra­mat­i­cally in­creased from about 30,000 in the 1960s to about 300,000 un­der the 1972 Marine Mam­mal Pro­tec­tion Act.

Crit­ics called it ill-con­ceived and say it won’t solve the prob­lem of de­clin­ing salmon, which also face other prob­lems such as habi­tat loss and dams.

“This bill changes the core pro­tec­tive na­ture of the Marine Mam­mal Pro­tec­tion Act by al­low­ing for the in­dis­crim­i­nate killing of sea lions through­out the Columbia River and its trib­u­taries,” Naomi Rose, marine mam­mal sci­en­tist for An­i­mal Wel­fare In­sti­tute, said in a state­ment.

Wash­ing­ton, Idaho and Ore­gon wildlife man­agers cur­rently have fed­eral au­tho­riza­tion to kill prob­lem sea lions that eat salmon in the Columbia River near Bon­neville Dam east of Port­land.

But they must first go through a lengthy process to iden­tify and doc­u­ment spe­cific sea lions that cause prob­lems, in­clud­ing ob­serv­ing them eat­ing a salmon and us­ing non-lethal haz­ing mea­sures on them.

Both the House and Se­nate bills would re­move those re­quire­ments, so states and sev­eral Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes could get a fed­eral per­mit to re­move any sea lion east of the In­ter­state 205 bridge that con­nects Van­cou­ver with Port­land, as well as in trib­u­taries of the Columbia River where there are fed­er­ally pro­tected fish.

Sev­eral Na­tive Amer­i­can tribes, in­clud­ing the Yakama Na­tion, Warm Springs, Umatilla and Nez Perce tribes, also would be granted au­thor­ity to man­age sea lions.

DON RYAN AP file

A Cal­i­for­nia sea lion des­ig­nated #U253 heads to­ward the Pa­cific Ocean af­ter be­ing re­leased in New­port, Ore., in in March. A bill mak­ing it eas­ier to kill sea lions that feast on im­per­iled salmon in the Columbia River has cleared the U.S. Se­nate.

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