Saturday, May 30, 2015

Press Release: Sea Lion Predation Forum

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Media Contacts:
Sara Thompson, Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, 503-238-3567
Bruce Polley, Coastal Conservation Association Oregon, 503-880-0827

Tribes, Fisheries Managers, and Fish Advocates Join U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader in Support of Federal Sea Lion Management Legislation

Oregon City, Ore- Faced with unprecedented levels of predation from growing numbers of sea lions in the Columbia and Willamette Rivers, leaders from the Columbia River Treaty Tribes, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW), and the recreational fishing community were joined at a public gathering on the shore of the Willamette River by Oregon U.S. Congressman Kurt Schrader and {hundreds} of concerned citizens to support the passage of federal legislation to protect endangered salmon. 

The rally, dubbed the Sea Lion Predation Forum was held at Clackamette Park just downriver from Willamette Falls, one of the locations where sea lion predation is most acute and taking a starting toll on returning endangered salmon and steelhead populations. Willamette Falls is a traditional fishing site of the Warm Springs, Wasco and Yakama Nation.  The broad coalition of tribal, state, and fishing organizations came together to draw attention to the urgent need to pass H.R. 564, federal legislation cosponsored by Congressman Schrader to give tribal, state, and federal fisheries managers the authority to address this growing threat to public safety and the survival of endangered fish populations in the Columbia River basin.        

“We know from experience that unchecked sea lion predation can wipe out an entire run of fish as they did to Lake Washington winter steelhead”, said Carlos Smith, Chairman of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. “We simply can’t allow that to happen in the Columbia Basin. This problem can be addressed, but we need the right tools.  Congress can provide some of those tools by passing H.R. 564.”

“Fifteen years ago it was extremely rare to see a sea lion at Bonneville Dam or Willamette Falls,” said Bruce Polley, Vice President of the Coastal Conservation Association Oregon.  “The huge influx of sea lions entering the Columbia and Willamette and the resulting impacts on our fish populations is an unnatural and unprecedented threat.  We appreciate Congressman Schrader’s leadership on H.R. 564 and urge the rest of Oregon’s Congressional Delegation to support this needed legislation.”  

Sea lion abundance in the lower Columbia River has seen a tenfold increase over the last three years, increasing from about 200 to nearly 2,500 this spring.  Predation in the Bonneville Dam tailrace in 2015 was over 8,000 salmon and steelhead, more than double the average from the last several years.  In 2014, ODFW estimated that sea lions below Willamette Falls consumed 8 percent of the wild, endangered Willamette River spring Chinook run and 13 percent of the wild, endangered steelhead run.

H.R. 564 – The Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act of 2015 had immediate bi-partisan backing when introduced in late January by Representatives Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Jaime Herrera-Beutler (R-WA).  It has since garnered support from Representatives Cathy McMorris-Rogers (R-WA) and Dan Newhouse (R-WA).  The bill, would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act to clarify and expand State and Tribal access to tools to manage interaction between abundant protected marine mammals and struggling endangered salmon. 

About CRITFC: The Portland-based Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission is the technical support and coordinating agency for fishery management policies of the Columbia River Basin's four treaty tribes: the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon, the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation and the Nez Perce Tribe.

About CCA Oregon:  CCA is a national non-profit 501(c)3 organization comprised of 17 coastal state chapters spanning the Gulf of Mexico, Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. CCA's strength is drawn from the tens of thousands of recreational fresh and saltwater anglers who make up its membership. CCA Oregon is made up of 13 local chapters and thousands of members across Oregon actively engaged in the conservation and restoration of our coastal marine resources. 

Heath Heikkila
253-248-0650 office

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