U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler and Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader announced they have secured almost $900,000 in funding aimed at protecting salmon from sea lion predation.
The $892,000 request is included in the Fiscal Year 2022 Appropriations Bill approved by the House Appropriations Committee’s Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies, a July 14 release from Herrera Beutler’s office stated. The funding will head to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife for equipment and related needs to remove sea lions and similar species from the Columbia River and its tributaries as outlined by a 2018 law the two lawmakers supported.
With a record number of California and Steller sea lions coming into the Columbia, Willamette and Snake rivers, the threat to salmon, steelhead, sturgeon and other fish in the rivers increased in recent years, the release stated. Sea lions prey on adult salmon and steelhead migrating upriver especially, according to NOAA Fisheries.
“For too long, our Northwest fish numbers have been decimated by a growing population of sea lions moving into our region’s rivers to gorge on salmon, steelhead and sturgeon,” Herrera Beutler, R-Battle Ground, said in the release.
“With sea lion control measures Rep. Schrader and I championed in 2018 now in motion, I’m pleased we were able to boost funding to implement these enhanced efforts and give our fish runs a fighting chance to survive and thrive for generations to come.”
Schrader, an Oregon Democrat, said Bonneville Power Administration ratepayers and constituents in his district pay hundreds of millions of dollars a year mitigating the impacts on threatened and endangered species.
“While we have made inroads with the crisis in recent years by changing laws and finding creative solutions, more work needs to be done to save our iconic salmon,” Schrader said in the release. “The funding Congresswoman Herrera Beutler and I secured through our request would give our agencies more tools to keep working toward the ultimate goal of permanently ending the sea lion threat.”
The approval marks the latest efforts by Herrera Beutler and Schrader to address sea lion predation in the Pacific Northwest, the release stated. The two led Oregon and Washington delegations in amending the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow the removal of problem sea lions by wildlife managers and tribes.
“But addressing the sea lion predation problem is just one part of an integrative salmon management strategy that involves other state, federal and tribal partners,” the release stated. “The whole Pacific Northwest community must also continue working together on habitat restoration and appropriately managing fisheries and hatcheries.”