Despite the opposition of AWI and other groups, a federal bill passed last year that allows a cull of sea lions within the Columbia River basin in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho, in a misguided effort to save endangered salmon. The first request for a permit under the new provisions has been submitted and the public comment period just closed. AWI’s action alert on this proposal prompted an impressive response—thousands of protest letters were sent to the federal agency responsible for deciding the sea lions’ fate.
Our own comment letter was extensive. AWI opposes lethal predator control, as it rarely (if ever) works. The purpose is to protect prey animals, but often this “solution” backfires. Sea lions also prey on fish that feed on young salmon, so killing these top predators may have counter-intuitive impacts on salmon recovery. In addition, at least one of the proposed capture methods would be inhumane (humane methods are legally required). The permit applicants propose darting animals on land and in the water, which could result in those individuals who escape capture later becoming incapacitated and drowning.
Regardless of the outcome of this permit application, AWI will continue to do all we can to protect the sea lions’ lives and welfare. We will also continue to press for true solutions to the decline in salmon, including removing dams in spawning habitat.