KALAMA, Wash. (KATU) — As the sea lion population in the Columbia River goes up, so does the impact to the region’s fishing industry.
On Tuesday, U.S. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler, R-Wash., met with area 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-Ore.
She said she’s still trying to get support for the legislation. The bill streamlines the process for state wildlife officials to manage the sea lion population.
According to Herrera Beutler, the ecosystem is unbalanced and there is a 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 the region needs to look at actually increasing salmon populations with dam removal, habitat restoration, and hatchery programs.