Sea lion removal may improve fishing opportunities
Permit allows for removal of 716 sea lions from Columbia River system
Last updated 8/18/2020 at 11:34am
PASCO — Salmon fishermen on the Snake and Columbia rivers may have better opportunities to land a lunker after the National Marine Fisheries Service approved the lethal removal of more than 700 sea lions preying on migrating fish at the base of dams.
In an approval issued Friday, Aug. 14, the agency allowed state and tribal fisheries managers to move ahead with a permit to kill up to 716 sea lions between the Interstate 205 bridge and McNary Dam, as well as any spawning tributaries.
Removing the sea lions is an attempt to improve the survival rate of salmon and steelhead migrating on the Columbia and Snake rivers.
According to fisheries officials, sea lions congregate along the river in increasing numbers every year at bottlenecks like Bonneville Dam, where they consume thousands of salmon and steelhead heading for the fish ladder.
The expanded removals could begin as early as this fall, state Department of Fish and Wildlife Southwest Region Director Kessina Lee said last week.
"Sea lions traveling up the Columbia have had a detrimental impact on already-troubled salmon and steelhead populations, and this permit represents a significant step forward in our ability to give these fish species an immediate boost to increase survival while we continue working on long-term solutions," Lee said.
Contingent upon receiving the kill permit, the Legislature this spring approved additional funding to expand these operations to protect salmon and steelhead
"We don't expect this program to solve the problem on its own, but it represents one more tool in the toolbox as we continue working to also restore habitat, manage hatcheries and fish harvest, and develop hydropower policy," Lee said.
Although managers have carried out lethal removals of California sea lions on the Columbia River for years, the new permit this time also allows for 176 Steller sealions to be removed.
The permit allows for removal of 540 California sea lions.