Press Releases

Reps. Herrera Beutler, Schrader Effort to Protect Salmon and Steelhead on Columbia River Heads to President’s Desk to be Signed into Law

U.S. Representatives Jaime Herrera Beutler (WA-03) and Kurt Schrader (OR-05) announced today they secured $892,000 to protect endangered salmon, steelhead, and other native fish species within the Columbia River system by continuing lethal sea lion removal.

The funds will be directed to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife which will use the funds on equipment and related needs to remove pinnipeds in the Columbia River and its tributaries as outlined by the 2018 law Herrera Beutler and Schrader successfully championed.

Herrera Beutler and Schrader worked last year to include this funding request for the Subcommittee on Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies FY22 bill, which was approved by the full U.S. House and Senate this week. The bill now heads to the president’s desk to be signed into law.

“With the sea lion control law that Rep. Schrader and I championed in 2018 now being implemented, the funding we have secured will ensure wildlife managers are continuing to remove the worst-offending sea lions. Our native fish runs deserve a fighting chance to thrive for many years to come, and this funding to tackle the sea lion problem on our rivers represents a vital step toward that goal. I’ll continue to do whatever it takes in Congress to give hope to those who fish our rivers that they can pass this tradition along to their children and grandchildren,” Rep. Herrera Beutler said.

“For years, Congresswoman Herrera Beutler and I have worked alongside our federal, state, and tribal partners to protect our native salmon, steelhead, and other native fish species from sea lion predation in Pacific Northwest waterways. I am proud we were able to secure this critical funding to ensure that our agencies and their partners back home can expand their work in the Columbia River and its tributaries as they work together to safeguard our endangered native fish, ecosystem, and economy,” Rep. Schrader said.

“We’re very pleased to see the continued support for this important program. We’ve already made great strides in improving pinniped management on the Columbia River over the past two years, and the tools are now in place to continue that success, helping conserve listed salmon and steelhead on this vital waterway,” Kessina Lee, Southwest Region director with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, said.

Sea lion removal works

In 2017, there were reports of sea lions ravaging steelhead nearly to the brink of extinction in Willamette Falls. It was reported that from Jan. 2017 to Aug. 2017, only 512 fish made it above the falls – an all-time low. Researchers said sea lions were to blame for decimating a quarter of the wild winter steelhead that were below the falls. A report outlined there was a 90 percent chance one of the upriver populations would go extinct if action wasn't taken to stem sea lion predation.

Just a couple of years later, after the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife was granted permission to remove sea lions near Willamette Falls, a resurgence of winter steelhead passed above falls. According to one Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife official, removing sea lions was a big factor in the bolstered numbers of endangered steelhead at Willamette Falls.