In 2008, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration ("NOAA") authorized Washington, Oregon, and Idaho to "lethally remove" individual sea lions that congregate below the Bonneville Dam and continue to eat listed salmon and steelhead after non-lethal deterrence methods prove unsuccessful. Under the current program, after a sea lion is identified and trapped it is either transported to a new location or euthanized. Earlier this month, however, a task force convened at NOAA’s request recommended that the controversial program be liberalized, and that sea lions be shot on the spot as a visual deterrent to the remaining population. The recommendations of the task force will now be considered by NOAA, and potentially incorporated into a new rule governing the program.
Although approximately 40 sea lions have been killed or removed since the initiation of the program, the United States Army Corps of Engineers reported that sea lion consumption of salmon and steelhead around Bonneville Dam grew from 3,846 in Spring 2007 to 5,095 in Spring 2010.