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Feds Revoke Authorization to Kill Sea Lions at Bonneville Dam in Response to Wild Fish Conservancy Lawsuit

Feds Revoke Authorization to Kill Sea Lions at Bonneville Dam in Response to Wild Fish Conservancy Lawsuit
Jul 26, 2011

In response to a lawsuit filed by Wild Fish Conservancy, the National Marine Fisheries Service has decided to revoke its May 2011 authorization to the states of Oregon and Washington to kill sea lions at the Bonneville Dam. Wild Fish Conservancy, The Humane Society of the United States, and two individual citizens filed suit in May to stop the states from killing as many as 255 sea lions at the dam during the next three years. The decision means that the states cannot kill any of the federally protected sea lions unless NMFS subsequently approves a new request from the states.

“Blaming sea lions is nothing but a distraction from facing up to the more politically difficult reasons why salmon are in trouble,” said Kurt Beardslee, executive director of Wild Fish Conservancy. “We’re glad that NMFS has chosen to halt plans to kill sea lions at this time, but the agency now needs to look objectively at dam operations and over-harvest, hatchery practices, and the stocking of non-native fish. Addressing a single one of these pervasive problems would help salmon far more than killing sea lions at Bonneville.”

Federal law only allows the killing of sea lions when the agency proves they are having a significant negative impact on salmon. Last year the Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit struck down NMFS’s March 2008 authorization because the agency could not explain why killing sea lions, who eat at most 4.2 percent of adult salmon and steelhead runs, is appropriate in light of the agency’s previous conclusions that fishermen taking up 17 percent of the same fish will only have a “minimal impact” on the fish. Data provided with NMFS’s May 2011 authorization showed that the rate of sea lion predation at the dam had decreased, and the rate of fisheries take had increased, since NMFS’s previous authorization.

“We are relieved to have won this stay of execution for sea lions, and we will work to make sure that this misguided effort is not attempted again,” said Jonathan R. Lovvorn, senior vice president and chief counsel for animal protection litigation for The HSUS. “NMFS’s decision to kill hundreds of native sea lions was irrational and illegal, and should be permanently shelved.”


Wild Fish Conservancy is a non-profit organization dedicated to the recovery and conservation of the Northwest region’s wild-fish ecosystems, with about 2,400 members. Wild Fish Conservancy’s staff of over 20 professional scientists, advocates, and educators work to promote technically and socially responsible habitat, hatchery, and harvest management to better sustain the region’s wild fish heritage. For more information, visit us at or follow us on Facebook at

Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching “HumaneTV” in the App Store.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the Web at


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