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Know the West

Sea lions slated for killing

  Northwest lawmakers are urging legislation that would permit state wildlife officials to kill sea lions that feast upon a decreasing stock of steelhead at Seattle's Ballard locks. Under the bills, which would amend the Marine Mammal Protection Act, states could petition the federal government to kill non-threatened sea mammals if they continue feeding on vulnerable fish, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Jerry Pavletich, West Coast representative for Trout Unlimited, says his group supports the killing of sea lions because in nine years of monitoring steelhead runs at the locks, the population has been halved each year. State wildlife biologists say the sea lions consume up to 60 percent of the run while their population grows each year by 10 percent. Rep. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., who introduced the House bill, says it "would enable us to make sure we don't risk losing a species that is in danger simply because it is not officially listed as "endangered" or "threatened." "''''However, according to Joy Belsky, staff ecologist for Oregon Natural Resources Council, the damage done by sea lions is minor. What's really killing fish is logging, dams, grazing, mining and hatcheries.