To save two species of endangered fish in the Colombia river that flows through the states of Washington, Oregon and Idaho, federal agencies in the US have given the permission for the culling of over 700 sea lions. The area in which the neutralization of sea lions would be allowed is a stretch of 200 miles of the river.

The species regarded as endangered by these marine creatures are steelhead trout and salmon. According to researches, the sea lions are capable of eating 44% of salmon and 25% of steelhead trout in the river, a dangerously high number. The sea lions on which open season is declared also come in two species – California sea lions and Steller sea lions.

Steller Sea Lion
Steller Sea Lion is also allowed to be hunted Wikimedia Commons

Need for Hunting

The method used for ending the lives of creatures belonging to these two species will be injections loaded with poisons. Of course, this would entail catching them first, something that would be far from easy. In fact, one observer believes that it would be hard to reach the target of 700.

Doug Hatch, a scientist belonging to the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, claims that only around 100 sea lions are found in the area designated for culling. It would be difficult for the tribes and government employees to find 700 of them in the coming five years – the duration of the program.

Fishes
Population of salmon has reduced considerably due to sea lions in the area Twitter

Legal Issues

As per the law in place till now, only California sea lions could be killed, that too only if they were proven to be a major threat to the fishes in the area. In that scenario, the National Marine Fisheries Service department would give the green signal for the offending sea lion to be liquidated. This legal framework was in place through a 2018 amendment to the Marine Mammal Protection Act of 1972.

However, three confederated tribal communities had requested for them to be given permission to hunt down the sea lions as the salmon population in the waters of the Colombia river and some of its tributaries were declining uncomfortably.

However, there was also opposition to this move from a large number of people. In fact, Fox News reports that when the government invited responses from the people to the permit being provided, they received nearly 22,000 responses with an overwhelming number opposing this move. Still, it was thought to be necessary to increase the population of the sea lions.