Steller sea lion delisting might eventually lead to removal at Bonneville

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The big question on a lot of people's minds is: Will the removal of the eastern population segment of Steller sea lions from the Endangered Species List open the door to the eventual selective sea lion killing at Bonneville Dam in a program similar to the one in place for California sea lions?

Potentially, said Robin Brown, the Marine Mammal Project leader with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife. But the decision about whether to pursue that option is years away, and the decision about whether to pursue it will have to be made at the highest levels, he added.

"It does change that," he said about the delisting. "Basically because the statute in Section 120 of the Marine Mammals Protection Act, which provides the authority that we are using to remove predatory California sea lions at Bonneville Dam requires that the animal ... cannot be listed under the Endangered Species Act if you want to apply for that authority. So that does provide, potentially, for the authority for management if necessary in that case."

Officials with National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Fisheries on Oct. 23 announced a finding that the eastern population segment of the huge marine mammals was healthy and growing, and that federal protection no longer is required.