I n concert with the Northwest Steelheaders’ efforts to increase salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest for the benefit of people and ecosystems, the association has issued a letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) supporting the June 13, 2019 Sea Lion Removal Application submitted by the Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game, the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, and the Willamette Committee.
The lethal removal of California and Steller sea lions is necessary to help prevent further population losses of wild salmon, steelhead, and other Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species from being decimated. In the Columbia River basin alone, the U.S. population of California sea lions has increased from less than 500 to 4,000 over the past thirty years. There has been an increase of Stellar sea lions in the basin as well, with 66 observed at the Bonneville Dam on a single day in 2018.
While sea lion abundance has increased, salmon and steelhead populations have declined in the Columbia River Basin despite actions to improve fish passage through hydropower dams, revise hatchery operations, restore habitat, and continue harvest management. A truly comprehensive approach to salmon and steelhead conservation must include the management of predation.
Non-lethal methods of deterrence have failed in the past. Lethal take of individual problem sea lions (typically large males that take a significant amount of salmon) has been shown to be the only successful management tool to address major predation problems both within and outside the Columbia Basin. The Northwest Steelheaders participated in the NOAA Task Force that recommended acceptance of the ODFW application for a take permit at the Oregon City Falls. We are encouraged that the results of significantly higher fish passage rates at the falls proved the value of this management tool. On behalf of our membership and conservation-minded anglers in the Northwest, we ask that the application be approved.
Our letter and comments on the proposal have been received by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and NMFS, reference number: NOAA–NMFS–2019–0073