PORTLAND - A Rainier man pleaded guilty Tuesday to trying to kill a sea lion in the Willamette River, a violation of the 1972 Marine Mammals Protection Act, federal prosecutors said.
A plea agreement requires James Housley, 62, to forfeit his fishing license for one year, forfeit the gun he used and pay a fine.
The government has agreed to seek a year's probation and a $5,000 fine but Housley could receive up to a year in jail and a $100,000 fine under the misdemeanor charge. Sentencing is set for Oct. 31.
Housley shot the animal April 18 as it swam in the Multnomah Channel of the Willamette River off Sauvie Island.
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Court documents allege he violated the 1972 law by "harassing and attempting to kill a sea lion."
Prosecutors say Housley was fishing and became frustrated that a sea lion had taken a salmon off a companion's line and shot the animal twice in the head. It's not known whether it survived the shooting.
This spring, U.S. Reps. Doc Hastings, R-Wash., and Brian Baird, D-Wash., proposed a bill making it easier to kill the most aggressive of the sea lions.
The animals have been blamed for taking a large chunk out of the spring salmon run in the Columbia River. They gather each spring just below Bonneville Dam to swim up the fish ladders to spawning grounds.
Tribes can catch salmon on Columbia
PORTLAND - The only commercial tribal salmon fishery remaining on the Columbia River opens today, making American Indian-caught fish from the unusually reliable fall chinook run available to the public.
The preseason forecast for fall chinook is about 275,000 fish. Tribal fishermen will have a right to about 62,000 of those in a fishery that is guaranteed to last three weeks and can be extended a week at a time as the actual return and catch numbers are monitored.
Salmon will be sold to the public, usually between 10 a.m. and dusk and for cash, at several spots along the river from Cascade Locks below Bonneville Dam to the Tri-Cities, Wash. area.
Fish will be available from the four Columbia River treaty tribes, the Umatilla, the Nez Perce, the Warm Springs and the Yakama.