The Humane Society of the United States announced that it has reached an agreement with the states of Oregon and Washington and the National Marine Fisheries Service, to suspend plans to kill as many as 85 sea lions at the Bonneville Dam this year. The decision comes after The HSUS, Wild Fish Conservancy, and two individual citizens filed suit last week seeking to stop the states from killing as many as 255 sea lions at Bonneville Dam during the next three years. 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.
“We are relieved to have won this temporary stay of execution for sea lions, but will continue to press our case to see that federal laws, and not the sea lions, are executed,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation for The HSUS. “NMFS’s decision to kill hundreds of native sea lions is irrational and illegal, and should be permanently shelved.”
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 previous 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 up 17 percent of the same fish will only have a “minimal impact” on the fish. The current lawsuit alleges that NMFS’s new authorization is similarly flawed.
“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 the agencies agreed to stop the killing this season, but NMFS 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.”
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