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NW Fishletter #369, May 1, 2017

[6] Tribes Applaud Sea Lion Predation Bill; Yakama Man Monitoring Sea Lions Dies

Federal legislation introduced in early April by Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) and Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) would give tribes authority to remove a limited number of predatory sea lions from the Columbia River.

In separate April 10 news statements, the Yakama Nation and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission applauded the bipartisan endeavor, saying the loss of spring Chinook to sea lion predation in the Columbia River estuary and at Willamette Falls constitutes an emergency.

"Easily 20 percent of the spring Chinook endeavoring to return to their spawning grounds are being taken by sea lions," the Yakama news release said.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimated that in 2016, 5.8 percent of the adult spring Chinook run was lost to sea lions in a quarter-mile area near Bonneville Dam.

Many more spring Chinook--NOAA Fisheries said up to 45 percent in 2014--were taken by these predators in the Columbia estuary, a 145-river-mile stretch between the river mouth and Bonneville Dam.

The proposed Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act would amend Section 120 of the Marine Mammal Protection Act to allow the Warm Springs, Umatilla, Yakama and Nez Perce tribes access to the same authorities currently available only to states, according to the CRITFC news release.

On March 12, two days after the news statements, CRITFC announced that Yakama tribal member Greg George perished in a boating accident related to tribal efforts to reduce sea lion predation in the river.

George is from a well-known fishing family and was part of a four-person crew counting sea lion abundance in the lower Columbia River aboard the research vessel CRITFC 3 when it capsized near Multnomah Falls. All were wearing flotation devices.

The other crew members survived and were retrieved from the water by Gresham, Ore., Fire and Rescue. -L. B.

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