House Panel OKs Sea Lion Removal

The House Natural Resources Committee has backed a bill to step up a program to capture or kill sea lions that are taking large chunks out of Northwest ratepayer investments in salmon recovery.

A House committee approved a bill to expedite the capture and killing of sea lions that prey on endangered Northwest salmon. (Photo By: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

A House committee approved a bill to expedite the capture and killing of sea lions that prey on endangered Northwest salmon. (Photo By: Getty Images/iStockphoto)

The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act won approval on July 26, just before the House left for its August recess.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., who sponsored H.R. 2083, said the measure gives more tools to state wildlife managers and tribes who are fending off predation by California sea lions on endangered species of salmon and steelhead.

"As long as sea lions continue to overpopulate the Columbia River and decimate our salmon and steelhead populations, I will work to protect our fisheries," she said. "I am pleased to see our efforts to promote salmon recovery moving forward."

Sea lions killed an estimated adult 9,500 salmon near Bonneville Dam in 2016 at a time when electricity users spent $621 million to protect fish under Bonneville Power Administration's management programs.

This year, sea lions consumed more than 1,800 adult salmon at Bonneville Dame between May 13 and June 2, the Army Corps of Engineers said.

Fish and wildlife expenditures account for one-quarters of BPA's wholesale power costs to electric co-ops.

Northwest states currently operate under a federal authorization that allows them to capture and kill 92 sea lions annually that are identified as habitual attackers. Some 166 have been euthanized or shipped to zoos since 2008.

Beutler's bill would change the process and allow permit holders to remove up to 100 sea lions a year, with a cap subject to biological analysis.

"The nonlethal approach to sea lion management is not working. We have to do something else," said committee chairman Rob Bishop, R-Utah.

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