NOAA Fisheries seeks input on proposed sea lion removal at Willamette Falls

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) has applied to remove California sea lions – potentially by lethal force – preying on endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead near Oregon City, according to a federal notice.

A task force created by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries will accept public input on the application, according to federal officials.

ODFW seeks the permission to remove “problematic sea lions” from the Willamette River area to prevent a similar preying of endangered and threatened salmon and steelhead near a damn on the Columbia River, according to NOAA Fisheries.

“California sea lions have preyed on threatened and endangered salmon and steelhead at Bonneville Dam for years, as shown, and increasing numbers have moved up the Willamette River to similarly prey on fish at Willamette Falls,” NOAA Fisheries staff stated in a published article on ODFW’s application.

“The first step in this review process is the formation by NOAA Fisheries of a Pinniped-Fishery Interaction Task Force that will include scientists, tribes, and representatives of fishing and conservation groups,” NOAA Fisheries’ article continued. “The task force will provide NOAA Fisheries with a recommendation on whether the agency should approve Oregon’s request as described in its application.”

NOAA Fisheries published a Federal Register document, Nov. 9, seeking public input and inviting nominations for the task force.

Comments and nominations must be submitted by Jan. 8, 2018.

The ODFW application is based upon about 10 years of data tracking, according to NOAA Fisheries. The California sea lion’s West Coast population, according to NOAA Fisheries, is “healthy and flourishing,” with about 250,000 members of the species swimming in the Pacific Ocean region.

“Removal of sea lions preying on the vulnerable fish would reduce that risk of extinction, ODFW biologists estimate,” NOAA Fisheries staff stated in its published article.

The task force, once functioning, will review data provided by ODFW officials and comments submitted by members of the public.

Submit comments online through regulations.gov or by mail at National Marine Fisheries Service, 1201 NE Lloyd Blvd., Suite 1100, Portland, OR 97232, ATTN: Protected Resources Division, Portland Branch Chief, NOAA-NMFS-2017-0126, by Jan. 8, 2018.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers photo

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