The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco has halted the National Marine Fisheries Service’s program that kills federally protected sea lions at the Bonneville Dam.
The Court, ruling on an appeal filed by The Humane Society of the United States and the Wild Fish Conservancy, found that the agency had failed to explain how the killing of sea lions is consistent with the Marine Mammal Protection Act.
“The government’s plan to kill sea lions for eating fish, while at the same time authorizing fishermen to take four times as many fish as sea lions is irrational, and the court has rightly put a stop to it,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, vice president & chief counsel for animal protection litigation for The HSUS. “It’s time for the agency to abandon this plan and work cooperatively with us to protect both sea lions and salmon in the Columbia River.”
In 2008, The HSUS and the other plaintiffs asked the Ninth Circuit to stop the killing of sea lions after a federal district court in Oregon denied plaintiffs’ request for an injunction. The lawsuit challenges NMFS’ conclusion that sea lions must be killed to prevent them from consuming an average of 0.4 to 4.2 percent of salmon returns, even as the agency allows fishermen to take up to 17 percent of the salmon run.
“Blaming sea lions is nothing but a distraction,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “We’re glad the Court recognized that the agency must consider its salmon conservation decisions openly and carefully, considering all impacts to salmon — including dams, fisheries and habitat degradation.”
Federal law only allows the killing of sea lions when the agency proves they are having a significant negative impact on salmon. The court found that the agency failed to reconcile its conclusion that sea lions are having a “significant negative impact” on salmon with the agency’s previous finding “that fisheries that cause similar or greater mortality among these populations are not having significant negative impacts.”
There’s already a discussion underway on the sportfishing site iFish.net in reaction to this ruling. Here’s a sample:
Jordanb38: I would have to think that any given sea lion eats more salmon in 3-5 days than my entire network of fellow fisherman and friends eats in an entire year.
Smokey360: Gotta love contradictory groups like HSUS and others. The sea lions are obviously causing damage to the salmon and sturgeon populations on the columbia river and elsewhere.