Sea Lions Executed for Eating Endangered Salmon in Oregon:  Ask Gov. Kulongoski to End the Cull

posted by: Jennifer Mueller
April 7, 2010

So far in 2010, 6 California sea lions have been executed by wildlife officials in Oregon for eating too many endangered Chinook Salmon at the bottom of the fish ladder at the Bonneville Dam. Officials are tracking a total of 60 sea lions on the Columbia river as repeat offender and may relocate them or issue more death sentences if "hazing," shooting the animals with rubber bullets or triggering underwater explosions near by, doesn't scare them off their preferred snack.

Update 4/8/2010: Tell Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski to end the sea lion cull and to look for other options to protect the Chinook Salmon population. Sign the Petition

Fisherman vs. Sea Lions?

The conflict is playing out as a competition between fishermen and sea lions for a declining population of endangered fish.

Referring to "out of control" sea lion populations in a letter to the Daily Province reader Mike Hodge writes: "It's time to cull sea lions before they eat all our fish."

Sharon Young of the Humane Society expressed her outrage in the Daily Finance: "This is about the integrity of the [fisheries] management program," says Young. "You can't sensibly say that a 4% take by sea lions is unsustainable and yet at the same time allocate up to 16% for fisherman. It makes no difference to the fish who eats them."

Real Cause of Salmon Population Decline

But sea lions are really only a minor threat to salmon. Habitat destruction is the real culprit (read: humans).

The reason the salmon at the Bonneville Dam are easy pickings for sea lions is because they are all preparing to go through small openings in the fish ladder to climb the 60 foot dam.

There are more than 75 dams of various sizes along the Columbia River and its tributaries, more than 30 of them on the Columbia and Snake rivers generating hydro-electric power. Those dams create obstacles for young salmon migrating to the ocean and adult salmon heading upstream to spawn.

And dams have much broader environmental repercussions in a watershed than simply barricading fish off from spawning grounds. When we dam a river, we cut it off from its floodplain, the most biologically productive part of a river ecosystem. Seasonal high and low water flow cycles are disrupted, affecting plants, animals, and water quality all over the watershed.

Scott Bowen of True/Slant sums it up:

"So we — American humans, a collective “we” — are killing a marine mammal, one we saw fit to give legal protection 38 years ago, in order to protect an endangered salmon species, one that we nearly destroyed with hydroelectric systems, so that a multi-million-dollar recovery effort on behalf of commercial fishing (including Native operations), recreational anglers, and the species itself does not suffer further losses, while the hugely excessive by-catch of American commercial fishing in various waters continues."

Real Solutions that Spare the Sea Lions

The Los Angeles Times editorial board suggests: "A better solution for all of these creatures would be a strong plan from the Obama administration on recovery for the Columbia River salmon, including the possibility of breaching one or more dams along the lower Snake River."

Breaching dams to protect fish is not unprecedented in the United States and the Obama administration is required to develop a plan for the salmon in the near future, so according to the Save Our Wild Salmon Coalition, there's an opportunity here.

What do you think?

Check out the 220 Reader Comments HERE:

Views: 17

Replies to This Discussion

Here's an article about dam removal
The Army Corps of Engineers report that 10% of fish die because of dams. I questioned if it's 10% at each dam, or 10% for all of the dams. The ACOE never answered that question. I don't believe that it's 10% total. If it's 10% at each dam then 41% die attempting to pass just 5 dams! There are 14 dams on the Columbia. A 10% fatality per dam is a 77% fatality rate for 14 dams. A lot of dams in the greater Columbia basin don't have fish ladders so no fish can migrate over them. Map of Dams
10% of fish populations at each dam would amount to 10% of fish populations collectively.
It's like leaving tuna unattended on the counter in the kitchen and expecting the cat to simply leave it alone.

not gonna happen.

The ladder has gotta go if they want to solve it.
Getting rid of the ladder would get rid of the fish. If there were no fish the sea lions wouldn't be a problem. I wonder if they tried using sonar to keep the sea lions away. It works to get rid of (err kill) wales in the Puget Sound. Seagulls and Pelicans are also natural predators. When the smolt go over the spillway they become disoriented making them easy prey for the birds.
Fish Passage Survival Estimates


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