A House Natural Resources Committee panel is holding a hearing this morning about the Endangered Salmon Predation Prevention Act (HR 946), which, under its tame-sounding official name, would authorize tribal members in the Pacific Northwest to kill sea lions to allow the endangered wild salmon to replenish in the Columbia River.

"As Northwest residents spend hundreds of millions of dollars each year to protect salmon, California sea lions camp out at Bonneville Dam and other areas along the Columbia River and gorge themselves on endangered fish," Natural Resources Committee chairman Rep. Doc Hastings (R-WA) explained in a statement last month.

The National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration in May authorized "lethal" removal of sea lions on the 140-mile stretch of the Columbia River in Oregon and Washington below the dam.

“This is not an easy decision for our agency to make, but a thorough analysis shows that a small number of California sea lions preying on salmon and steelhead are having a significant effect on the ability of the fish stocks to recover,” William W. Stelle Jr., Northwest regional administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service, said in a statement recommending lethal removal of sea lions in the region.

The Humane Society stands opposed to the the bill, because once sea lions are removed, lethally or by other means, others will come to take their place, Sharon Young, the organization's marine issues director told the Daily Caller.

“If you kill some of them others come, so you don’t actually stop anything,” she said. “You are just killing sea lions and making it look like you’re doing something, where in fact you are not doing anything at all because sea lions come and go all the time and completely obviates any benefit you might get from removing some of them. It simply doesn’t work.”

The legislation has a long history, and methods for salmon repopulation in the Columbia River, have been debated for years. Salmon and steelhead have been a large part of Northwestern and tribal culture for centuries.

Tribal members and Oregon and Washington state wildlife officials would be the only people authorized to deal with the sea lions, should the bill pass.

Image via Wikimedia Commons.