The U.S. House of Representatives recently passed the “Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act” (Act) (H.R. 2083), co-sponsored by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA) and Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-OR), allowing for the lethal removal of California and Steller sea lions (Zalophus californianus and Eumetopias jubatus) to protect endangered salmon (populations of Oncorhynchus nerka, Oncorhynchus kisutch, Oncorhynchus tshawytscha, and Salmo salar), steelhead (Oncorhynchus mykiss), and other native fish species.  The Act provides tribal members and government fishery managers with the means to remove protected sea lions from specific areas where they pose the most harm to endangered fish species.

California and Steller sea lions are protected under the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972 (MMPA).  The Act would ease the protections afforded to both species of sea lion under the MMPA, allowing the lethal removal of up to 100 sea lions per permit.  It also streamlines the process for obtaining permits to euthanize the sea lions.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, California sea lions killed the largest proportion of Chinook salmon and steelhead in 2017 than in any year since 2011.  The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife estimates that, at the current rate, the Willamette Winter Steelhead run faces a 90 percent chance of extinction if nothing changes.

The legislation passed with a vote of 288-116.  The Senate must still take action on a companion bill co-sponsored by Sen. Jim Risch (R-ID) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-WA).