(Extensions of Remarks - September 29, 2006)

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[Extensions of Remarks]
[Pages E1918-E1919]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office []



                           HON. DOC HASTINGS

                             of washington

                    in the house of representatives

                      Thursday, September 28, 2006

  Mr. HASTINGS of Washington. Mr. Speaker, today I am introducing 
legislation that provides an expedited process for the States of 
Washington and Oregon and the four Columbia River treaty tribes to 
manage aggressive California sea lion predation of endangered salmon 
and steelhead in the Columbia River. This bill is the result of months 
of collaboration with my colleague from Washington, Mr. Baird, and I 
thank him and his staff for their diligent efforts in working with me 
to develop this legislation.
  The Columbia River is the heart of our region, and runs right through 
my district in Central Washington state. This river is critical for 
power production, irrigation, transportation, recreation, and fish and 
wildlife habitat. This river is renowned for its salmon, which are an 
important part of the regional economy and way of life, and of great 
cultural significance to the Native American people of the Pacific 
Northwest. Unfortunately, at this time, we have a number of salmon and 
steelhead runs that are listed as threatened and endangered under the 
Endangered Species Act in our region. Many of these are in the Columbia 
River and its tributaries.
  Our region is working diligently to restore healthy salmon runs, and 
we have made great progress over the last 10 years. We have invested 
hundreds of millions of dollars each year in direct spending in support 
of salmon recovery. I have long argued that we must take a balanced 
approach to salmon recovery that recognizes the many factors that 
influence their life cycle. This includes the so-called ``four Hs''--
hydropower, hatcheries, harvest, and habitat--as well as things like 
ocean conditions and the high level of predation by certain birds and 
marine mammals. This legislation is about addressing the latter 
  We have witnessed dramatic increases in the number of California sea 
lions over the past few decades. In fact, their numbers have grown six-
fold to nearly 300,000 coast wide. While these animals have always been 
present in and around the Columbia River, we have seen them appear in 
growing numbers in recent years--especially during the peak of the 
spring salmon run. A few years ago, just a few sea lions were witnessed 
in the tailrace below Bonneville dam, where the salmon tend to gather 
before entering the fish ladders. Now, it is becoming the norm to see 
nearly 100 of them. Recent estimates by the Army Corps of Engineers 
indicate that California sea lions are responsible for eating more than 
three percent of the run as observed at Bonneville dam. This does not 
include the numbers of salmon eaten elsewhere in the lower Columbia 
River by sea lions.
  Despite efforts by federal, state, and tribal officials to discourage 
the sea lion predation through aggressive nonlethal hazing, the sea 
lions appear to becoming more brazen with each passing year. It is 
clear that lethal removal of some of the worst actors is necessary to 
deter this sea lion behavior and to help recoup more of our substantial 
investment in salmon recovery.
  Similar conflicts between protected marine mammals and ESA-listed 
fish have occurred in the Northwest before. In fact, the Marine Mammal 
Protection Act was amended in 1994 to address the problem of California 
sea lions eating returning winter steelhead at the Ballard Locks in 
Seattle. The process established by that amendment allows states to 
apply to the Commerce Department for legal authority to remove marine 
mammals under certain conditions. However, in practice, the application 
process takes 3 to 5 years to come to a conclusion.
  The Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act, which I am 
introducing today, would provide expedited authority for states and 
tribes to manage the sea lion problem while the states concurrently 
apply for longer-term authority through the established process. There 
are numerous protections in this proposal to ensure that only a limited 
number of sea lions are removed. In addition, the permit holders would 
have to determine that the sea lion in question has preyed upon salmon 
stocks and has not been responsive to nonlethal hazing methods. The 
proposal calls upon the Commerce Secretary to report to Congress on the 
need for amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act to address 
conflicts between protected marine mammals and fish species that are 
listed under the Endangered Species Act.
  In addition to Mr. Baird, I am pleased to be joined today upon 
introduction by Mr. Walden and Mr. Dicks. This proposal is a measured, 
common-sense response to the very real problem of increasing California 
sea lion predation of threatened and endangered salmon, and I hope my 
colleagues will allow us the opportunity to move this legislation 
expeditiously before the end of the 109th Congress.

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