U.S. House approves bill to allow killing sea lions

FILE- In this April 24, 2008 file photo, a sea lion eats a salmon in the Columbia River near Bonneville Dam in North Bonneville, Wash. Two species of fish listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act are facing a growing challenge in Oregon from hungry sea lions. The federally protected California sea lions are traveling into the Columbia River and its tributaries to snack on fragile fish populations. (AP Photo/Don Ryan, File)

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House passed a bill Tuesday that would allow tribal managers and government fish managers to kill limited numbers of sea lions in the Columbia River to improve the survival of endangered salmon and steelhead populations.

The legislation passed by a vote of 288 to 116.

Under the bill, designated officials would be able to remove some California and Stellar sea lions from specific areas where they are posing the most harm to endangered native fish runs.

The bill is sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore.

“For the salmon and steelhead fighting to make it upstream, today’s vote in the U.S. House significantly improves their chances of survival," Beutler said after passage of the bill.

"The passage of my bipartisan bill signals a return to a healthy, balanced Columbia River ecosystem by reining in the unnatural, overcrowded sea lion population that is indiscriminately decimating our fish runs."

Beutler said supporters of the bill are "not anti-sea lion," adding, "We’re just for protecting a Pacific Northwest treasure - salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other native fish species iconic to our region."

A companion bill is moving through the U.S. Senate now, sponsored by U.S. Sen. Jim Risch, R-Idaho, and U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash.

Joe Stohr, acting director of the Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife, supported the passage of the bill.

“We appreciate today’s action by the House of Representatives and the efforts of Representatives Herrera Beutler and Schrader to secure the bill’s passage. Sea lion predation on salmon is a complex issue, and we thank them for recognizing the need for action to help recover threatened and endangered populations in the Columbia River.”

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