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Bipartisan Bill to Control Sea Lions, Save Salmon on the Columbia and Willamette Rivers Signed Into Law

Today, the bipartisan bill authored by U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Kurt Schrader (D-OR) giving tribal members and government fish managers the authority to lethally remove sea lions that are decimating endangered salmon and steelhead runs was signed into law.

The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act passed the U.S. House earlier this year, and companion legislation passed the U.S. Senate earlier this month.

“After 12 years of hard work by so many on this legislation, seeing it finally become law today represents a momentous step in the effort to protect our endangered salmon and steelhead runs. Today, we have reason to be optimistic that our fight to prevent the extinction of entire Northwest salmon runs, and the species that depend on them, can succeed,” said Rep. Herrera Beutler.

“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 law will provide a great step forward in eliminating this threat to our iconic Oregon salmon that are struggling to survive once and for all.”

“This legislation affirms our collective determination to keep Columbia River salmon robust and abundant. The entire Northwest Congressional delegation really went to bat for these fish and we’re grateful for that. We’re eager to put this new law into action and provide better balance between these species,” said Charles Hudson, Intergovernmental Affairs Director, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

“We commend the tireless, bipartisan efforts of Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler and Kurt Schrader and Senators Maria Cantwell and Jim Risch to give Northwest states and tribes the authority to protect wild and endangered salmon and steelhead from excessive, unnatural sea lion predation in the Columbia River basin,” said Gary Loomis, founder of G-Loomis, Edge Rods, and Coastal Conservation Association (CCA) in the Pacific Northwest. “The enactment of this science-based legislation is the culmination of a decade-long effort by Reps. Herrera Beutler and Schrader and a coalition of states, tribes, conservation organizations, and sportfishing advocates, including tens of thousands of citizens who voiced their support for this legislation that is so critical to the future of Columbia River salmon.”

“We appreciate the bipartisan leadership of Congresswoman Herrera Beutler, Congressman Schrader, Senators Cantwell and Risch on this effort. The legislation had the unanimous support of the Northwest delegation, and we applaud its passage and enactment into law. The increasing sea lion population in the Lower Columbia River in recent years has presented a greater threat to wild salmon and steelhead runs than ever before. The states and our tribal partners now have the tools to better protect our iconic and endangered fish populations from their predation,” said Kelly Susewind, Director of Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife.

How this new law will impact Northwest salmon and steelhead:

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 new law is supported by a broad spectrum of Northwest residents and organizations that include recreational fishermen represented by the Coastal Conservation Association, Tribes and the Oregon and Washington State Departments of Fish and Wildlife.