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Group Urges Tougher Measures to Remove Sea Lions

by Phuong Le, Associated Press
Seattle Times, December 28, 2010

Sea Lions. SEATTLE -- A group advising the federal fisheries service says a program to remove or kill sea lions that eat imperiled salmon near Bonneville Dam hasn't been effective at saving the fish.

In its three-year review released last week, the group made up of fishermen, tribes, state agencies and others urged the National Marine Fisheries Service to ease rules so more California sea lions can be trapped, removed or shot from land and boat.

The report comes as the federal agency is deciding whether to appeal a court decision last month that halted the program.

In 2008, the federal government allowed Oregon, Washington and Idaho to kill the hungriest of the sea lions that preyed on salmon and steelhead at the base of the dam east of Portland, Ore. So far, 27 sea lions have been killed, while 10 were relocated to zoos or aquariums.

The fisheries service gave the states permission to kill up to 85 a year until 2012.

The Humane Society of the United States had challenged that decision, and the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in November that the federal government failed to explain why it let state officials kill sea lions, while humans are allowed to take comparable or larger catches of endangered salmon and steelhead.

The agency has until early January to decide whether to appeal or take other action, Garth Griffin, branch chief of the fisheries service's protected resources division in Portland, Ore., said Tuesday.

In its review, the task force said the current program was able to reduce the sea lion's take of endangered salmon to between 2 and 3 percent, down from 4 percent in 2004, according to 2010 estimates. But the program goal was less than 1 percent.

"More animals must be trapped in order to be removed," the group said. It recommended more traps and more staff available to work the traps seven days a week.

A majority of the group also recommended that more sea lions should be shot from land and boat, and that areas where the animals could be hauled out and shot should be increased.

None of the 27 animals killed so far were shot, though states currently have the authority to do so from land, Griffin said.

The group of experts first met in 2007, and recommended actions to the fisheries service, including capturing and killing specific animals.

"It's a very valuable document in that they went through very carefully everything that's happened in the last three years," Griffin said of the report.

Related Pages:
Survival of Snake River Salmon & Steelhead Data compiled July 2004 by

Phuong Le, Associated Press
Group Urges Tougher Measures to Remove Sea Lions
Seattle Times, December 28, 2010

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