California sea lions consuming salmon just below the Columbia River’s Bonneville Dam. Photo with permission from the U.S. Corps of Engineers
Supporters of an effort to stop the government from killing sea lions at Bonneville Dam made their case to a federal judge in Portland Friday. The animals are targeted because they feed on endangered salmon.
The lawsuit was filed by the Humane Society of the United States this spring after the National Marine Fisheries Service gave Oregon and Washington the go-ahead to kill up to 30 California sea lions.
Bonneville Dam along the Columbia River is a favorite hang-out spot for the marine mammals. The dam makes it easy for them to munch on migrating salmon and other fish.
Humane Society attorney Ralph Henry argued in court that the government is unfairly targeting sea lions, instead of focusing on larger threats to salmon habitat such as the dams themselves.
"What we think this case comes down to is the fact that one user group of salmon, sea lions, is not politically connected, they don't have a lot of money and they don't have a voice to speak for themselves. And so the government is scapegoating them."
U.S. District Judge Michael Simon says he plans to rule in the case before sea lions return to Bonneville Dam next spring.
On the Web:
Lethal sea lion removal at Bonneville Dam (National Marine Fisheries Service)
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