Thursday, September 26, 2013
9th Circuit Revisits Sea Lion 'Kill List'
Animal-rights groups urged the 9th Circuit on Friday to halt a plan to trap and kill California sea lions that feed on protected fish species near the Bonneville Dam, asking the court, "When does it end? When does the killing stop?" Ralph Henry, a lawyer with the Humane Society of the United States, said the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) had invoked a "narrow exception to kill sea lions," but could not point to the specific conditions needed for it to end. This is the second time the issue has been raised in the 9th Circuit; the same three judges on Friday's panel vacated a similar federal authorization three years ago. Oregon, Washington and Idaho first asked the NMFS in 2006 for permission to "take" California sea lions that eat salmon and steelhead just below the dam, which acts as a bottleneck to fish migrating upstream in the Columbia River. The request was part of an effort to protect threatened or endangered populations of salmon and steelhead. But California sea lions are also protected. The Marine Mammals Protection Act bans the taking of all marine mammals, unless individual animals "are having a significant impact on the decline or recovery" of threatened or endangered species. Another species of sea lion, the Steller sea lion, also feeds at the dam but is off limits because it's protected by both the Marine Mammals Protection Act and the Endangered Species Act. In 2008 the states were permitted to kill up to 85 California sea lions per year, but the 9th Circuit vacated that authorization in 2010. The federal appeals court said NMFS failed to explain why sea lions posed a greater threat to endangered fish than commercial fisheries and hydroelectric power plants...more