During most of the 20th century seals and sea lions did not frequent the Columbia River because they would get shot if they did. When it was determined there were only a few thousand on the West Coast, the possibility of their extinction was real and the National Marine Protection Act (NMPA) was established in 1972. In 1973 the Endangered Species Act (ESA) was established providing protection for any species facing extinction. Presently 13 Columbia River salmon and steelhead stocks are listed for protection under the ESA. The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) administers these acts.
In the spring of 2014 NMFS conducted a study where they discovered 45 percent of salmon tagged at the mouth of the Columbia, and destined for streams above Bonneville Dam, were not accounted for at the dam 145 miles upriver. The logical answer is, they were eaten by seals and sea lions.
Since 1972 NMFS has protected the sea lions. With a population of over 300,000 and a record pup die-off from starvation, it is obvious they no long need protection of NMPA. However, the 13 listed fish stocks in the Columbia River do need protection and NMFS is required by the ESA to provide this protection. Since it must be assumed that the 45 percent listed fish have been eaten, NMFS is required to reduce or eliminate the seals and sea lions eating them.
It has been reported that billions of dollars have been spent to improve the salmon and steelhead runs in the Columbia River System. Most of these funds have been expended by governmental agencies. But, to bring these fish back to the desired levels, it will require the cooperation of private landowners. If there is something I know about farmers and forest landowners, they are not likely to cooperate if they know that 45 percent of the fish are being eaten by seals and sea lions.