I write in strong support of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife’s application for Section 120 removal authority of California Sea Lions (CSL) near Willamette Falls. According to an analysis released by ODFW earlier this year, ESA-listed Willamette River winter steelhead will go extinct if nothing is done to reverse the sea lion predation.
ODFW has conducted non-lethal deterrence methods to deter CSL predation since 2010. These non-lethal methods have not worked, and the predation has only increased in recent years. The number of California Sea Lions moving into Willamette River continues to increase and their presence now appears to be nearly year-round. If NOAA is serious about saving an ESA-listed species, it should authorize the removal of these sea lions, rather than requiring any further non-lethal deterrence activities.
NOAA should also broaden the scope of the permit to apply beyond the immediate area near Willamette Falls. While Willamette Falls represents a serious area of predation, California Sea Lions are targeting ESA-listed steelhead and salmon throughout the Willamette River. Moreover, NOAA should act to provide ODFW maximum flexibility in determining that individual sea lions are predating on salmon and are therefore authorized to be removed.
I urge NOAA to take swift action on this critical application.