U.S. Rep. Herrera Beutler hosts salmon, sea lion discussion

In this March 14, 2018, photo, a California sea lion waits to be released into the Pacific Ocean in Newport, Ore. Two species of fish listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act are facing a growing challenge in Oregon from hungry sea lions. The federally protected California sea lions are traveling into the Columbia River and its tributaries to snack on fragile fish populations. After a decade killing the hungriest sea lions in one area, wildlife officials now want to expand the program. (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

As the sea lion population in the Columbia River goes up, so does the impact to our region’s fishing industry.

On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Washington, met with local fishing guides to talk about how to handle it.

Earlier this year, Herrera Beutler co-sponsored the bipartisan Endangered Salmon and Fisheries Predation Prevention Act with Oregon U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Oregon.

She says right now she’s still trying to get support for it. The bill streamlines the process for state wildlife managers to manage the sea lion population.

Herrera Beutler argues the ecosystem is unbalanced and fear some salmon runs could become extinct.

"We're not talking about wiping an entire species off the map. We're talking about trying to protect a species," she said.

"We're going to end up in the situation where we don't have salmon and steelhead, and then we're not gonna have prey for the predators to eat. So we can either have salmon and steelhead or we can have no salmon and steelhead and no sea mammals too," said fishing guide Cameron Black.

So far fish and wildlife managers and native tribes have been using their own management methods.

Others say we need to look at actually increasing salmon populations with dam removal, habitat restoration and hatchery programs.

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