Here are comments we submitted to NOAA on behalf of all members of the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, supporting the ODF&W application for removal of sea lions from Willamette Falls.
Donna S. Wieting, Director
Office of Protected Resources, National Marine Fisheries Service
1315 East-West Highway
Silver Spring, MD 20910
November 21st, 2017
Dear Ms. Wieting,
Through exhaustive efforts, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has attempted to remove California sea lions from fish passage facilities and within the vicinity of Willamette Falls, in an effort to curb an insatiable appetite for salmon and steelhead by this pinniped population. All efforts have failed, as they have in other locations such as Bonneville Dam and Ballard Locks.
Wild spring Chinook and winter steelhead are not only in a deep decline in the Willamette Basin, they are listed under the ESA.
It is for this reason, we support the swift and effective removal of problematic pinnipeds that have a recorded history of preying on these sensitive stocks of fish. Although removal through off-site lethal injection is more of a socially acceptable method or removal, it stands next to no chance of changing the behavior of these aggressive, effective and persistent mammals. Off-site removal is acceptable to our organization, but will likely continue to perpetuate the problem, as the behavior will not change over time. Safety remains priority one however, if a more visible means of removal is possible.
Although lethal removal at Willamette Falls is likely to remedy the Willamette Falls crisis situation, it does not address the growing concern of other troubling observations during the 2017 winter season. California sea lions were also observed predating on spawning wild steelhead on the Clackamas and Sandy Rivers. We urge immediate removal of these problem animals so this learned behavior does not get established in these adjacent watersheds.
Finally, although addressing the issue of adult predation, the gross predation on out-migrating juvenile salmonids by harbor seals and sea lions is also of grave concern. It’s critical for the survival of these species, to also address this growing problem.
In Deep Gratitude,
Bob Rees, Executive Director