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U.S. House Passes Bipartisan Bill to Save Endangered Salmon, Steelhead by Removing Some Sea Lions

Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, Kurt Schrader’s bill to improve survival of endangered Columbia River fish runs, provide tools to managers to lethally remove limited number of problematic sea lions heads to U.S. Senate

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Washington, D.C. , June 26, 2018 | comments
Today, a bill championed by U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) to improve the survival of endangered salmon and steelhead by selectively removing some sea lions from the Columbia River passed the full U.S. House with a 288-116 vote.
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Today, a bill championed by U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) to improve the survival of endangered salmon and steelhead by selectively removing some sea lions from the Columbia River passed the full U.S. House with a 288-116 vote.

H.R. 2083, the Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, provides tribal and government resource managers with the means to rapidly respond to and lethally remove a limited number of California and Stellar sea lions from specific areas on the Columbia River where they are posing the most harm to salmon restoration efforts.

Specifically, this bill amends Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to authorize the Secretary of Commerce to provide states and local tribes the tools necessary to humanely manage sea lions on the waters of the Columbia River and its tributaries as long as the sea lions are not part of an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed species.

Reps. Herrera Beutler, Schrader and other members took to the U.S. House floor this afternoon to speak on behalf of and secure the bill’s passage. You can click here to watch Jaime's brief floor remarks.

Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03): Click here for Rep. Herrera Beutler’s audio of this quote.

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

We’re not anti-sea lion. We’re just for protecting a Pacific Northwest treasure: salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other native fish species iconic to our region. My bill provides state and tribal managers with the tools they need to humanely manage the most problematic pinnipeds. Simply put, this measure cuts through the bureaucratic red tape, streamlines the permitting process, and allows states and tribes to rapidly respond to remove sea lions from areas they pose the most threat to salmon recovery. The joint, bipartisan effort from my House colleagues, most notably Rep. Schrader, plus the support and hard work of tribal officials, state and local wildlife agencies, fish conservation groups, and the work currently being done in the U.S. Senate, underscore the urgency of securing this measure, the last line of defense against entire fish runs becoming extinct. Today is about preserving our native salmon and steelhead for generations to come.”

Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-05): Click here for Rep. Schrader’s audio of this quote.

“Salmon are an important part of the culture, identity, and the economy of the people and tribes of the Pacific Northwest. It is one of the reasons why we’ve, as a region, put so much time, energy, and resources into protecting and recovering these iconic fish. Our bill will provide the states and tribal members the flexibility they need to protect these endangered fish and manage the threat posed by sea lion predation. I’m very pleased to have the support of so many of my colleagues in the House in tackling this issue in a bipartisan, thoughtful way. I want to thank Rep. Herrera Beutler and our states, tribes, and local communities for all of the hard work everyone has put in over several years now on this legislation and on working towards solutions to save our salmon.”

Charles Hudson, Intergovernmental Affairs Director, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission:

“The passage of H.R. 2083 is a demonstration of the unity and resolve the Northwest delegation consistently shows around salmon protection. Our tribes recognize and applaud the hard work and regional vetting that went into crafting this important legislation. It shows a lot of care, balance and scientific integrity. We are eager to get to work implementing this legislation.”

Liz Hamilton, Executive Director, Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association (NSIA):

“Representative Herrera Beutler and Representative Schrader have stepped up during a crisis and delivered a solution to prevent extinction of fragile Columbia Basin salmon and steelhead stocks. The businesses of NSIA are appreciative of the Representatives' leadership in resolving this very tough issue. All who care about salmon recovery, food for Southern Resident Killer Whales, and have jobs that depend on healthy fish stocks should support Representative Herrera Beutler and Representative Schrader’s efforts on this important effort.”

Joe Stohr, Acting Director, Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife:

“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.”

Dr. Shaun Clements, Senior Policy Advisor, Oregon Department of Fish & Wildlife:

“ODFW very much appreciates the efforts of Representative Herrera Beutler, Representative Schrader, and the Northwest delegation to pass a bipartisan bill that provides us with the flexibility we need to address the conservation crisis occurring in the Columbia basin. For the past decade we have watched sea lion predation on some of Oregon’s iconic fish runs increase dramatically. Even as we have attempted to address all the other things affecting salmon, we have not been able to manage sea lions. This bill, if it also passes in the Senate, will mean that ODFW can take the actions needed to protect salmon and steelhead in the Willamette, Clackamas, and Sandy rivers as well as our iconic sturgeon in the lower Willamette.”

Gerald Lewis, Chairman of the Fish and Wildlife Committee of the Yakama Nation:

“We are very appreciative of the hard work that Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Kurt Schrader have put into this bipartisan bill. Supreme Court Justice McKenna eloquently and correctly wrote in 1905 that the Columbia River salmon were “not much less necessary to the Indians than the atmosphere they breathed.” NOAA scientists have confirmed what we have been saying for over a decade: predatory sea lions are taking an astonishing number of salmon, far more than all the fishermen combined. We know this is a learned behavior by a relatively small number of sea lions because we didn’t have hundreds of sea lions 146 miles upriver at Bonneville Dam even 20 years ago. This legislation will rebalance the equation and help the fish that are so important to our entire region.”

Gary Loomis, founder of G-Loomis, Edge Rods and Coastal Conservation Association:

“Today’s vote is a big step forward in the effort to protect our wild and endangered Columbia River basin salmon and steelhead from unnatural sea lion predation that is threatening species with extinction. There is strong scientific consensus on the need for action and I applaud the bipartisan efforts of Washington Congresswoman Jaime Herrera Beutler and Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader to lead this important effort. I am also encouraged by recent progress in the U.S. Senate as it will take our entire Congressional delegation – Senate and House, Republican and Democrat – to get this legislation passed before it is too late.”

Guido Rahr, President & CEO, Wild Salmon Center:

“This is a critical issue that cannot go another year without being addressed. This bill provides a thoughtful and practical approach to addressing sea lion predation in critical areas of the Columbia River. It also, for the first time, enables managers to respond before the number and habits of sea lions become an insurmountable problem for returning wild salmon and steelhead populations. Salmon recovery requires a multi-faceted response. We appreciate the leadership of Representative Herrera Beutler and Representative Schrader for their leadership and commitment to this issue.”

Chairman Rob Bishop (R-UT), U.S. House Natural Resources Committee:

“The habitual Washington D.C. knee-jerk defense of the status quo is harming endangered species instead of protecting them. The fact of the matter is that the existing regulations are leading to the decline in endangered salmon in the Pacific Northwest, a key source of ecological vibrancy in the region. This bipartisan bill corrects the problem by giving states and tribes the tools to humanely manage sea lions and prevent further destruction of endangered fish and the region’s economy. I appreciate Rep. Herrera Beutler’s hard work on this legislation.”

A companion bill is moving through the U.S. Senate now, sponsored by Senators Jim Risch (R-ID) and Maria Cantwell (D-WA).

The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act is supported by the governors of Washington, Oregon, and Idaho. The Ilwaco Charter Association, Coalition of Coastal Fisheries, and public utilities are also among the bill’s supporters.

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