US House approves bill that would allow the killing of sea lions

WASHINGTON -- The U.S. House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday that would allow the lethal removal of sea lions in order to save endangered salmon and steelhead populations -- the primary food source for the endangered Southern Resident orcas.

The  Senate companion bill has yet passed.

The House legislation, sponsored by Reps. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., and Kurt Schrader,D-Ore., provides tribal managers and government fish managers with the means to remove limited numbers of California and Stellar sea lions from specific areas where they are posing the most harm to endangered native fish runs.

“This is a must-pass piece of legislation if we want to save our iconic salmon, steelhead, and sturgeon runs that help make our region so unique,” Beutler said.

Harbor seals, sea lions and some fish-eating killer whales have been rebounding along the Northeast Pacific Ocean in recent decades. But that boom has come with a trade-off as they devour the main food supply for our resident orcas.

Currently, only 75 Southern Resident orcas are alive,  the lowest it's been in more than three decades.

"I’m very pleased to see the House recognizing the urgency of the problem posed by sea lion predation in the Pacific Northwest,"  Schrader said.