Congress has taken a concrete step to tackle the declining numbers of salmon in the Columbia River including its tributaries. It has allowed for a change to be enacted in the Marine Mammal Protection Act which makes it possible to kill and euthanize the growing numbers of sea lions in the river waters.
As per Wildlife managers, the protective measures introduced in 1972 for sea lions are no longer necessary in view of the huge numbers they have grown into. The House approved a bill on Tuesday by which controls on sea lion killings were lifted as that would help protect declining steelhead and salmon numbers in the Columbia River. The Senate had passed the proposal earlier.
The change in legislation has facilitated the varied Pacific Northwest tribes and states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho in keeping the sea lion population at bay. Those mammals which can seem to cause problems are caught and euthanized thus streamlining the entire process.
The move was welcomed by governors of Washington, Oregon, Idaho in addition to the various tribes and fishing groups. This makes it easier for the wildlife managers for keeping a better control over their population which has seen a drastic increase from the 1960s 30,000 figure to the 1972 figure of 300,000 post enactment of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. The move was vigorously applauded by Jaime Pinkham, the Executive Director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission. Jay Inslee, the Democrat Gov. of Washington too supported the legislation as a measure to increase the dipping population of salmon.
However, the changes according to some critics was an impractical solution to the salmon issue as other problems like loss of habitat and dams had also to be tackled alongside. Moreover, among the many thousands of Columbia River estuary’s sea lions only a few hundreds swim upstream and they alone canbeeligible for elimination.