Support efforts to amend the federal Marine Mammal Protection Act to enable more effective management of pinniped (harbor seal and sea lion) predation of salmonids in the Columbia River, and to include Steller sea lions on the list of pinnipeds managed in the lower Columbia River. Support more removals and altering removal requirements.
Monitor Chinook survival and pinniped distribution in the Columbia River estuary to guide management.
The Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife should work with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife to pilot a project to remove artificial sea lion haul-out sites in the lower Columbia River and study whether that reduces predation on Chinook.
- The Governor should support efforts to amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act to more effectively manage pinniped predation of salmonids in the Columbia River. The task force should join the Governor in expressing public support for a Columbia River-specific amendment to the Act that is currently under consideration in Congress.
- Alternatively, or in the meantime, the Governor should support an application for Marine Mammal Protection Act authorization to increase effectiveness of the management program by allowing the management of Steller sea lions, increasing removal levels, and altering removal requirements. In the case of an application for authorization, the Governor should request the Washington federal delegation support funding for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to review the application expediently. To implement increased management through either an Marine Mammal Protection Act amendment or additional Act authorization, the Legislature should provide additional funding to the Department of Fish and Wildlife to work with partners to carry out the program.
- To monitor the effectiveness of the management program, the Governor should request that NOAA provide federal funding to monitor Chinook salmon survival from the Columbia River estuary to Bonneville Dam. The Governor and Legislature should provide complementary state funding for the Department of Fish and Wildlife to perform pinniped distribution surveys for this same area. In combination, these two analyses will greatly help to guide management actions.
- In 2019, Congress passed the federal Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act (PL 115-329), giving state and tribal resource managers more flexibility to manage sea lion predation in the Columbia River to minimize impacts to salmon. The law allows the National Marine Fisheries Service to approve permits that will streamline the removal process of a designated number of sea lions from a portion of the Columbia River and adjacent tributaries each year.
- In 2020, the Legislature awarded $462,000 to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to expand management of pinniped populations in the lower Columbia River and its tributaries with the goal of increasing the amount of Chinook salmon available for orcas to eat. The department received permits from the National Marine Fisheries Service in 2020, and in 2021, the department received funding to continue to remove predatory sea lions in the lower Columbia River and to conduct population counts of sea lions there.
More details may be found in the progress reports in the resources library.