RON WYDEN SUPPORTS KILLING SEA LIONS
In a previous article ( http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2006/10/347687.shtml), I asked people to contact their congressional representatives regarding HR 6241, a controversial piece of legislation aimed at circumventing the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), and allowing for the slaughter of sea lions. I took my own advice, and wrote to my representatives. I can't even believe the reply I just received from Senator Ron Wyden.
In a curt response, Senator Wyden (from whom I had expected better) thanked me for writing to him, and then proceeded to build his case for allowing the killing of sea lions. Bizarrely, he appealed to the protection of the Chinook salmon under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) to explain why sea lions (protected by the MMPA) should be killed. He seems to be saying that the sea lions are in violation of the ESA, and therefore can be killed. Here is the text of his letter:
Thank you for contacting me regarding California sea lions preying on migrating salmon and sturgeon, particularly near the Bonneville Dam. I appreciate hearing from you.
As you know, this is becoming an increasing occurrence in river systems and bays located along the West Coast. According to a multi-year study by the Army Corps of Engineers, sea lions in the Columbia River are appearing earlier each year and in greater numbers. Between 2002 and 2004, the percentage of the returning run of Chinook salmon eaten by sea lions increaded from 0.2% to 2.1%. Clearly, the impact rate is more significant in years when the salmon runs are small, such as this past year.
During the spring of 2005, more than 100 sea lions came to Bonneville Dam to feed on salmon. IN addition, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) documented 14 cases of sea lions preying on migratory sturgeon. However, most of the sea lion controversy is centered around approximately 35 "problem animals" for which FWS's usual methods of deterring salmon-feeding by sea lions have proven unsuccessful. Although Chinook salmon are protected by the Endangered Species Act, California sea lions are a protected species under the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA). The States of Oregon and Washington have initiated a process under MMPA to allow for lethal measures to be used on 2 California sea lions that have learned to climb the Bonneville dam fish ladders to access migrating salmon.
I worry about the long-term impacts that sea lions, such as those at the Bonneville Dam, may have on already fragule salmon and sturgeon runs. Salmon, in particular, are a valuable resource socially, economically, and culturally for the Pacific Northwest and the nation. In Addition, I am concerned because these sea lions are growing more aggressive in their interactions with humans. I will continue to pursue a balanced solution to the situation and should the issue come before me in the Senate, I will keep your views and concerns in mind.
Again, thank you for keeping me apprised of the issues that are important to you.
United States Senator
Please, if you care about the sea lions, write and call Senator Wyden now, and demand that he stop scapegoating sea lions for the decline of salmon. If sea lions are responsible for "2.1%" predation on salmon, as Senator Wyden suggests, then there is a long line of culprits who need to be addressed way before killing sea lions can even be considered. As I reported in my previous article, the dams themselves are responsible for a full 75% mortality rate among salmon trying to pass through them to the sea. They, of all factors, are responsible for the waning runs. Fishermen, too, are responsible for a much higher percentage of salmon mortality than sea lions. The fact is, as I stated in my original letter to Senator Wyden, sea lions and salmon have lived together in natural harmony for millenia. The salmon did not begin declining until humans came, with gill nets and fishing rods, and yes, dams. Senator Wyden ignored that. He finds it more politically expedient to side with industry pressures and scapegoat sea lions, than to really seek an honest solution. I had predicted that our congressional reps would bow to these pressures, I just did not expect Senator Wyden to do so this soon, or this blatantly.
Again, please call and write to him, because it does matter. He can be reached here:
700 NE Multnomah Street
Portland, OR 97232
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