WDFW and partners apply to kill sea lions in Columbia River and tributaries

Chinook Observer –

The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, along with a consortium of state and tribal partners, on June 13 submitted an expanded application to lethally remove California and Steller sea lions preying on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River and its tributaries.

California sea lions — and increasingly, Steller sea lions — have been observed in growing numbers in the Columbia River basin, especially in the last decade, the agency said in a press release. These sea lions prey heavily on salmon and steelhead runs listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), including thousands of fish at Bonneville Dam each year.

The impacts come at a time when many Chinook salmon runs are already at historic lows.

 The recovery of sea lions since the passage of the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA) in 1972 is a success story, said Kessina Lee, Region 5 director with WDFW. But that recovery has also brought challenges.

“The vast majority of these animals remain in coastal and offshore waters, but several hundred have established themselves in upriver locations,” Lee said. “Where salmon and steelhead numbers are low, any unmanaged increase in predation can cause serious problems.”

Predator management is a key part of a multi-faceted effort to restore salmon and steelhead populations in the Pacific Northwest.

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