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Six Sea Lions Killed at Bonneville Dam

The Humane Society of the United States expresses disappointment with continued, needless killing

This week, six California sea lions were killed at Bonneville Dam in the Columbia River simply for doing what comes naturally – eating fish. Under a permit issued by the National Marine Fisheries Service, the states of Oregon and Washington used lethal injections to kill these sea lions, who were branded and marked for death in 2013.

Sharon Young, marine wildlife protection field director for The HSUS said: “Killing a sea lion won’t help salmon recovery. Sea lions come and go from the Dam. Killing them simply distracts from the fact that the major factors affecting salmon recovery remain largely unaddressed. This lethal program costs tax payers hundreds of thousands of dollars each year and wastes not only that money but the lives of the sea lions whose deaths accomplish nothing.”

Oregonians: Ask Gov. Kitzhaber to call off this killing
Washingtonians: Ask Gov. Inslee to call off this killing

State managers have predicted a spring salmon return of 227,000 fish in the Columbia River Basin. Under a court-approved quota system, commercial, recreational and tribal fishermen would be allowed to take up to 12 percent of these fish. Although state and federal fishery managers consider this level sustainable, the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho have claimed that salmon predation by sea lions at Bonneville Dam – which averaged less than one percent over the last three years – is unacceptable and requires immediate lethal reprisals.  


  • A number of factors are responsible for the decline and slow recovery of salmon in the Columbia. These include dams that block passage and kill fish, ocean and river salmon fishing levels, habitat that is degraded and hatchery operations that release fish that both eat and compete with native salmon.
  • Non-native bass and walleye maintained to benefit sport fishermen eat up to 2 million young salmon in the Columbia River each year.
  • According to NMFS policy, a sea lion is deemed “predatory” and marked for death if the animal is individually identifiable, seen on any five days at the Bonneville Dam and is observed eating at least one fish on one of those five days. Up to 92 of these sea lions can be killed in a single year.
  • The Army Corps of Engineers, which monitors predation at Bonneville Dam, found that the sea lions at the Dam one year are often different individuals than those there in previous years. Killing sea lions is pointless because new sea lions come even as others are killed.
  • In the most recent bi-annual Report to Congress, the National Marine Fisheries Service reported that all of the spring runs affected by sea lion predation are either stable or increasing.

Media Contact: Kaitlin Sanderson: 301-721-6463; ksanderson@humanesociety.org