Senate passes bill making it easier to kill sea lions
SEATTLE — 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
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 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.