OSSA Asks Oregon Congressional Delegation For Support and Leadership Addressing California Sea Lions Predation On Fish Runs

The following letter was sent to Oregon’s congressional delegation:

May 31, 2018

U.S. Representative Kurt Schrader
U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio
U.S. Representative Earl Blumenauer
U.S. Representative Greg Walden
U.S. Representative Suzanne Bonamici
U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley
U.S. Senator Ron Wyden

RE: H.R 2083 and S1702

To Oregon’s congressional delegation,

The Oregon State Sheriffs Association would like your support and leadership addressing the rapidly increasing threat posed by pinniped (California Sea lions) predation on fish runs.

Oregon is facing a crisis within the Willamette basin, and elsewhere. ESA-listed wild winter steelhead numbers have declined significantly during the past decade, with a record low return in 2017 of just 512 fish. Conversely, the number of California sea lions (CSL) present on any given day at Willamette Falls has increased from 5-6 individuals in the 1990’s to 40 in 2017.  Recent predation rates jumped from 11-15% in 2014-16 to 25% in 2017. An analysis by scientists from Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) clearly shows that if predation by sea lions continues at this level there is a nearly 90% probability that one of the three major steelhead populations will go extinct.  This risk drops to around 6% if sea lion predation is removed.

Meanwhile, pinniped populations are flourishing. The U.S. population of CSLs has expanded from less than 75,000 to approximately 300,000 animals since the federal MMPA was passed three decades ago. The population is now at or near its carrying capacity and we will continue to see sea lions push vulnerable salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon stocks in the Columbia basin and in our coastal communities towards extinction unless our professional managers are given the authority to act early at problem locations.

Areas must be identified where imperiled fish populations are particularly vulnerable, like dams and falls, and proactive management actions must be taken to exclude pinnipeds from expanding into these areas and habituating. This will allow both the MMPA and ESA to be successful, rather than one Act undermining the other, and help restore an appropriate predator/prey balance for these species.

The mouths of our rivers have also seen a dramatic increase in predation by sea lions. Our docks and marinas are seeing thousands of dollars a year in damages.

As co-sponsor of H.R. 2083, Rep. Schrader is keenly aware of this need, and we thank him for his initiative and leadership on this issue.  We also understand that Rep. Schrader and other sponsors are supportive of friendly amendments already proposed by State and Tribal managers.

We urge all of Oregon’s congressional delegation to work towards bipartisan support for H.R 2083 and S1702, with amendments proposed by State and Tribal managers, so that extinction of another fish run is not a part of our legacy.

Sincerely,

John Bishop Sheriff (Ret.)
Executive Director Oregon State Sheriffs Association

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