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1999 Report to Congress: Impacts of California Sea Lions and Pacific Harbor Seals on Salmonids and West Coast Ecosystems

February 10, 1999

U.S. Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration National Marine Fisheries Service.

In accordance with Section 120(f) of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, this report follows the scientific investigation conducted by NOAA Fisheries into the impacts of California sea lion and Pacific harbor seal predation on salmonids and other impacts of these pinnipeds on the coastal ecosystems of Washington, Oregon, and California (Scientific Investigation Report, NMFS 1997). This report provides the results of discussions between NOAA Fisheries and the Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission (PSMFC) and representatives of the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the California Department of Fish and Game. The discussions were held to address the issues and problems identified as a result of the scientific investigation, and to develop recommendations to address such issues or problems.

The Scientific Investigation Report was released to the public in March 1997. The draft recommendations based on these discussions were made available to the public for review and comment for a period of 90 days. The recommendations are hereby submitted to the House of Representatives Committee on Resources and to the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation in accordance with P.L. 103-238 - Marine Mammal Protection Act Amendments of 1994.

Two pinniped issues were identified from the Scientific Investigation Report. These issues, along with a summary of the information from the scientific investigation are provided in the pinniped issues section of this report. Four recommendations were developed by the PSMFC, the state resource agencies in Washington, Oregon, and California (the States), and NOAA Fisheries. The issue of greatest concern is the potential impact of pinnipeds on the recovery of salmonids that are listed, proposed for listing, or candidates for listing under the Endangered Species Act. NOAA Fisheries, PSMFC, and the States acknowledge that there are many factors that have caused the decline of salmonids on the West Coast.

Although predation by pinnipeds was not a principal factor in the listing or proposed listing under the ESA of any salmonid populations, it is now a factor that may affect the recovery of depressed salmonid populations, and it is the specific factor that Congress requested be the focus of this report. The problems created by expanding pinniped populations, the need for management options, and the rationale for specific recommendations are provided in the discussion section of this report. Several specific management actions are included in the recommendations section of this report. The appendix of this report contains a summary of public comments on the draft recommendations and NOAA Fisheries’ responses to these comments.

Last updated on 07/07/2020