Statement Regarding Sea Lion Predation on Winter Steelhead
August 9, 2017
On August 7, the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife released a “report” regarding the impact of male sea lions at Willamette Falls on native winter steelhead trout. ODFW contends that the native run of winter steelhead are at high risk of extinction. While the threat of extinction is true, unfortunately ODFW’s analysis puts far too much emphasis on the impact of sea lions.
From earlier days when winter steelhead returned to the Willamette by the thousands, today we have a relatively scant few. In 1999 winter steelhead were listed under the Federal Endangered Species Act as “threatened,” due to the loss of habitat, and lack of fish passage at the US Army Corps of Engineers dams. The loss of habitat and lack of fish passage, in addition to newer information pointing to the impact of the summer steelhead hatchery, makes reversing these impacts of paramount importance. Summer steelhead are not native to the Willamette, and are thought to interfere in the recovery of native winter steelhead in multiple ways.
“It would be much more significant if the ODFW could take clearer route in regard to the issues impacting winter steelhead. Frankly it is a bit disingenuous to place an undue amount of emphasis on sea lions in relation to the potential extinction of winter steelhead,” says Riverkeeper & Executive Director, Travis Williams. "The impacts of the US Army Corps' dams, major habitat loss, and the advent of hatcheries brought us to this point over the past decades. It has been nearly 20 years since winter steelhead were listed, and ODFW doesn’t really seem to reflect that in their recent PR effort regarding sea lions.”
While sea lions certainly have an impact that needs attention, it seems to many that ODFW should have made a more responsible statement in regard to the situation native winter steelhead are in today. “ODFW should make a strong statement about the need to restore habitat, to push the US Army Corps to make improvements to their dams more quickly, and to halt the continued production of summer steelhead until proper consultation with NOAA can occur,” said Williams.
Willamette Riverkeeper . 1515 SE Water Ave #102 . Portland OR 97214 . 503-223-6418 . www.willametteriverkeeper.org