Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sea lions win in federal court

A federal appeals court today blocked the states of Idaho, Washington and Oregon from proceeding with plans to kill 85 protected California sea lions on the Columbia River to aid threatened salmon runs. Acting on an emergency appeal filed by the Humane Society of the United States, the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals declined to issue an injunction but ruled that the killing of the sea lions would be "irreparable" and should not proceed before further proceedings in the case. A federal judge denied a request for the injunction last week, saying the Humane Society of the United States had not proven that there would be irreparable harm if the injunction was not issued. But the appeals court said the planned killings of the sea lions near the Bonneville Dam to protect the fish was "by definition, irreparable." "The stunning wildlife of the Pacific Northwest deserves protection, but choosing between salmon and sea lions is not the answer," the Humane Society of the United States says on its Web site, according to the Reuters international news service. "A thriving river needs a greater variety of creatures sharing its waters, not less." The appeals court compared the salmon run, estimated to be 269,000 fish this year, with the up to 2,000 salmon expected to be eaten by the 1,000 sea lions believed to live in the Columbia River. "The States' authorized action to manage California sea lion predation at the Bonneville Dam is stayed to the extent their proposed actions involve the lethal taking of any sea lions," the court said. But the three-judge panel said plans to move 19 sea lions to zoos and aquariums could proceed. The killing of the sea lions had been approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service.

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