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Bipartisan Bill to Save Salmon On the Columbia and Willamette Rivers Headed to the President’s Desk

The bipartisan Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act, led by Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) in the House, passed out of Congress today and is headed to the President’s desk to become law. The legislation gives tribal members and government fish managers the authority to remove sea lions from specific areas of the Columbia River system and its tributaries where they are posing the most harm to endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish runs.

“This has been an issue that I have worked on since first coming to Congress. I want to thank everyone – Rep. Herrera Beutler, Senators Risch and Cantwell, and our states, tribes, and local communities – for the exceptional work to get this bill over the finish line this year,” said Rep. Schrader. “In the last few years especially, we’ve seen a record number of sea lions in the Columbia River from Astoria to Bonneville Dam. Ratepayers and my constituents are paying hundreds of millions of dollars annually towards the largest mitigation program in the country for threatened and endangered salmon. These sea lions, whose population has become totally inconsistent with their historic range, have been undoing all of that work by feasting on the endangered species. Our legislation will provide a great step forward in eliminating this threat to our iconic Oregon salmon that are struggling to survive once and for all.”

“Today’s passage of our bill to control sea lions was a hard-fought victory – it’s a personal victory for each of us who treasure our Northwest salmon runs and want to see them preserved for generations to come,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler. “I’m grateful for the partnership of my colleague Kurt Schrader, and for Senators Risch and Cantwell for shepherding this through the Senate. I’m so pleased we are able to give Northwest fish managers this critical tool to help save our salmon and steelhead runs.”

Historic recovery efforts of endangered salmon and steelhead populations in the Columbia River have been compromised by exponentially increasing sea lion predation in recent years. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), California sea lions have killed the largest proportion of spring Chinook salmon and steelhead this year than any year since 2011. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that at the current rate, the Willamette Winter Steelhead run faces a 90 percent chance of extinction if nothing changes.

This bipartisan legislation authorizes states and tribal members to lethally remove sea lions that are predating on endangered salmon, steelhead and other native fish species. The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act is supported by a broad spectrum of Northwest residents and organizations that include recreational fishermen represented by the Coastal Conservation Association, the Northwest Sportfishing Industry Association, and the Association of Northwest Steelheaders, Tribes, and the Oregon and Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife.