A measure backed by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Camas, allowing for the killing of sea lions to protect endangered fish, is gaining momentum in Congress.
The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, co-sponsored by Oregon’s Democratic U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, was approved by the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday.
The bill allows tribal members and fish managers to remove California sea lions from specific areas to protect salmon, steelhead and other native fish that are considered threatened.
“Salmon are central to our way of life in the Pacific Northwest, but right now sea lion predation is posing a serious threat to our salmon populations,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement. “Significant resources are invested to ensure their survival, but we’re being poor stewards of these resources if we don’t also manage the threat of an exploding sea lion population.”
The Coastal Conservation Association in Oregon has voiced its support for the measure, calling it a science-based effort to decrease predation.
“Many predator populations have reached artificial and unnatural levels due to human actions and conflicting laws,” the fishing group wrote on its website.
The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission and the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife is also supportive, according to information from Herrera Beutler’s office.
The sea lion population has been growing in recent years, resulting in more fish being consumed. In 2013, the estimated number of salmon and steelhead consumed by sea lions in the Bonneville Dam tailrace was 2,928, according to information from the congresswoman. In 2014, the number was 4,704, and in 2015, it jumped to 10,859 fish.
The state’s fishing industry contributed $390 million to the state’s gross domestic product in 2011, provided $247 million in income and generated $654 million in sales.