A federal judge has ruled that Oregon and Washington state authorities can resume killing California sea lions that feast on endangered salmon bottled up at a dam on the Columbia River, but fewer than one-third as many as federal biologists previously had authorized.
U.S. District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, D.C., on Thursdau denied the Humane Society request to stop the killing at the Bonneville Dam while a lawsuit challenging the program goes forward. But he limited the killing to 30 animals a year instead of the 92 authorized by federal authorities, and ordered that none of them may be shot.
Adult salmon and steelhead returning to spawn get bottled up at the fish ladders over Bonneville. California sea lions, which are federally protected as marine mammals, but not as threatened or endangered species, swim about 145 miles upriver to the dam to feed on the fish in the spring.
Wildlife officials don’t believe the limits imposed by the judge should pose a problem, as officials did not anticipate killing more than 30 animals in any one year. Over the past four years, only 41 have been trapped and killed or sent to a zoo or aquarium.
The current authorization from NOAA Fisheries Service is good for four years. (AP)