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June 14, 2011

The HSUS Testifies in Opposition to Bill Rolling Back Federal Protections for Sea Lions

WASHINGTON — The Humane Society of the United States Tuesday asked a House subcommittee to reject legislation that would roll back longstanding federal protections for native sea lions, and expand States’ authority to kill the playful marine mammals.

Sharon Young, marine issues field director for The Humane Society of the United States, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife Oceans and Insular Affairs about the bill, which is a misguided effort to protect threatened salmon along the west coast. She noted that hydropower operations, fishing, and habitat loss are the key threats facing salmon in the Columbia River basin, and blaming native predators like sea lions is nothing but a distraction from real salmon recovery efforts. The federal government authorizes fisheries to take more than four times the amount of salmon that sea lions consume, and fisheries have exceeded their allowance during two of the last three years.

“Expanding state authority to shoot sea lions will not do anything to speed recovery of salmon stocks,” Young said. “Fishing, hydropower operations, hatcheries, and habitat loss are the problems we should be talking about, not rolling back and undermining long-standing and important environmental legislation like the Marine Mammal Protection Act.”

Facts

  • Currently, federal law only allows the National Marine Fisheries Service to authorize the killing of sea lions when it is clear that they are having a significant negative impact on the decline or recovery of salmon stocks.
  • Last year, the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit struck down an attempt by NMFS to authorize the killing of as many as 85 sea lions per year at the Bonneville Dam, because the agency could not explain why killing sea lions, who eat at most four percent of adult salmon and steelhead runs, is appropriate in light of the agency’s previous conclusions that fishermen taking as much as 17 percent of the same fish will only have a “minimal impact” on the fish.
  • In May 2011, NMFS again authorized the killing of sea lions at the Bonneville Dam, and The HSUS and other plaintiffs filed a lawsuit challenging that this authorization is similarly flawed and unlawful. Shortly after this lawsuit was filed, The HSUS reached an agreement with the states of Oregon and Washington and NMFS to suspend plans to kill as many as 85 sea lions at the Bonneville Dam this year. The agreement is temporary, but means that no sea lions may be killed before The HSUS’ lawsuit challenging the program can be heard by the court.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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