California sea lions, protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA), are devouring winter steelhead trout, also protected under the ESA, at a rate that could soon cause the fish to go extinct, The Oregonian reports.
The sea lions have posted around Willamette Falls, Oregon’s largest waterfall, waiting for trout swimming upstream to their spawning grounds. The Organ Department of Game and Fish has calculated an 89 percent chance of extinction for the Willamette Falls trout population if the federal government doesn’t intervene.
Two members of Congress from the northwest are pushing for legislation that would allow Oregon and Washington state officials and regional tribes the authority to kill the protected sea lions in order to save the trout.
GOP Rep. Jaime Herrera-Beutler of Washington and Democrat Rep. Kurt Schrader of Oregon are pushing a bill that would multiply the number of sea lions that can legally be killed by a factor of 10, from 92 currently to 920, according to The Oregonian.
“It’s pretty dire,” Oregon’s senior fish policy adviser Shaun Clements told The Oregonian. “If we don’t deal with this near-term risk, there might not be fish.”
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