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Federal Judge OKs Killing Of Sea Lions In Columbia River

Katrina Roi

A federal judge ruled today Thursday that Washington and Oregon can resume killing sea lions on the lower Columbia River at the Bonneville Dam. The Humane Society had asked for a pause on killing the animals while a lawsuit works its way through the courts. KUOW's Katrina Roi has the story.


California sea lions gorge on salmon and steelhead that pool below the Bonneville Dam. Since 2008, Fish and Wildlife officials from Washington and Oregon have been trapping and killing the mammals to protect endangered fish.

Craig Bartlett is with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. He says the agency is pleased with the ruling because removing sea lions is an important part of restoring fish populations.

Bartlett: "Until we began this effort to address the sea lion issue, sea lions were the only major factor affecting these runs that had not been addressed."

Sharon Young is head of marine issues at the Humane Society. She says the ruling was disappointing.

Young: "I think it looks like an easy solution. Unfortunately, in ecological interactions, it's never that simple. Sea lions also eat predators of the salmon."

The judge ruled that only 30 sea lions can be killed each year at the Bonneville Dam instead of the 90 authorized by federal authorities.

Young says that's something positive. She says ultimately it's about saving both species.

Young: "It's not about preferring charismatic sea lions over poor fish. It's because we care about those fish that we want to see something meaningful done."

The Humane Society's lawsuit against NOAA Fisheries will go forward, but there's no court date scheduled yet.

For KUOW News, I'm Katrina Roi.

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