July 26, 2011
Feds Revoke Authorization to Kill Sea Lions at Bonneville Dam in Response to HSUS Lawsuit
WASHINGTON-- In response to a lawsuit filed by The Humane Society of the United States, the National Marine Fisheries Service has decided to revoke its May 2011 authorization to the states of Oregon and Washington to kill sea lions at the Bonneville Dam. The HSUS, Wild Fish Conservancy, and two individual citizens filed suit in May to stop the states from killing as many as 255 sea lions at the dam during the next three years. The decision means that the states cannot kill any of the federally protected sea lions unless NMFS subsequently approves a new request.
“We’re delighted the agency has changed its mind and revoked the State’s authorization to kill hundreds of native sea lions for having the audacity to eat fish for dinner,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation for The HSUS. “It’s time to face the fact that killing sea lions doesn’t do anything for salmon, and focus instead on real salmon conservation threats, like hydropower and commercial fishing.”
Federal law only allows the killing of sea lions when the agency proves they are having a significant negative impact on salmon. Last year the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down NMFS’s 2008 authorization because the agency could not explain why killing sea lions, who eat at most 4.2 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. Data provided with NMFS’s May 2011 authorization showed that the rate of sea lion predation at the dam had decreased, and the rate of fisheries take had increased since NMFS’s previous authorization.
“Blaming sea lions is nothing but a distraction from facing up to the more politically difficult reasons why salmon are in trouble,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “We’re glad that NMFS has chosen to halt plans to kill sea lions at this time, but the agency now needs to look objectively at dam operations and over-harvest, hatchery practices, and the stocking of non-native fish. Addressing a single one of these pervasive problems would help salmon far more than killing sea lions at Bonneville.”
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.
Wild Fish Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the recovery and conservation of the Northwest region’s wild-fish ecosystems, with about 2,400 members. Wild Fish Conservancy’s staff of over 20 professional scientists, advocates, and educators work to promote technically and socially responsible habitat, hatchery, and harvest management to better sustain the region’s wild fish heritage.