Gov. Jay Inslee is urging U.S. House representatives from Washington, Oregon and Idaho to support a bill penned by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, that seeks to reduce sea lion predation on at-risk fish populations, including salmon and steelhead.
Inslee sent a letter to the Northwest delegation asking for support Friday with the support of Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter.
“Although several hundred million dollars are invested annually to rebuild these native fish runs, their health and sustainability is threatened unless Congress acts to enhance protection from increasing sea lion predation,” the letter reads. “It’s hard to imagine successful recovery of threatened and endangered fish populations with these high levels of interception by sea lions.”
Researchers estimate sea lions consume nearly 20 percent of the spring Chinook run, and a study by NOAA Fisheries found up to 45 percent of adult Chinook salmon disappear between Bonneville Dam and the estuary. Those loses are largely attributed to sea lion predation.
The bill, HR 2083, allows state, federal and tribal authorities to respond faster and more efficiently. Lethal removal is still limited in the bill.
“I am pleased to see bipartisan support for my bill continue to grow.,” Herrera Beutler said in a statement. “As the governors stated in their letter, we must act to protect our native Columbia River salmon and steelhead. I am hopeful that the senators from Oregon and Washington will also join in supporting this bill to successfully move it through Congress.”
Inslee, Brown and Otter wrote that they hope the two chambers can come to an agreement on the bill and implement it with bipartisan support.
“No one wants to harm these great marine mammals, but effectively dealing with a small fraction of the healthy sea lion population is preferable to losing unique and irreplaceable species of salmon,” the letter concludes.