Sea Lions Can Be Killed For Eating Salmon

When a federal agency was faced with the tough decision of protecting endangered salmon traveling up the Columbia River on their way home to spawn or get rid of the sea lions that feast on them at the Bonneville Dam, the agency ruled in favor of the fish. 

The outcome of their decision allows 85 sea lions to be killed.

Washington and Oregon won the approval late last week from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.  This is the second attempt for the two states to get the ruling.  In 2008, the Humane Society of the United States won a reprieve for the sea lions in the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

NOAA officials said the decision was difficult to make.  For the past decade, the agency has tried all sorts of humane methods to move the sea lions to other areas.  They have physically relocated the most problematic fish eating culprits and used firecrackers and rubber bullets to scare other sea lions away. 

Since 2008, a total of 37 animals have been removed from the dam.  Ten were placed in zoos, one died during an examination and the remaining 26 were euthanized.

Ultimately NOAA has failed to deter the sea lions from eating a substantial number of salmon and steelhead.  Both fish have been protected by the federal Endangered Species Act since the early 1990s.

On the other hand, NOAA says California sea lions are thriving and estimates their population to be 238,000.

The NOAA website said, “This is not an easy decision for our agency to make, but a thorough analysis shows that a small number of California sea lions preying on salmon and steelhead are having a significant effect on the ability of the fish stocks to recover,” said William W. Stelle Jr., Northwest regional administrator for NOAA’s Fisheries Service. “Today’s authorization allows state fisheries and natural resource agencies to carefully remove California sea lions to reduce their effect on vulnerable fish species.”

A representative from HSUS told Reuters the group may go back to court to challenge the ruling.

According to NOAA, the agency’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage our coastal and marine resources.

TAKE ACTION: Sign the petition to stop the killing of the sea lions.


Photo from Creative Commons - Mike Baird

Love This? Never Miss Another Story.


Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Andrea, here's the link........

Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Andrea, good point, BUT sometimes it does require having to make the choice to save a species. They HAVE tried re-locating! Please read the comments and the article, itself.

It's all MOOT anyway, since the decision to kill the few worst offenders has been halted by the courts and all plans to do this have been withdrawn.

Andrea W.
.4 years ago

One wrong does not make another right. . .this wrong makes the end results wrong. . .re locate the sea lions to another location so that the salmon can spawn and do what they need to do for their circle of life to be completed. . .

Warwick Neal
Warwick Neal4 years ago

Killing sea lions will not save the salmon. Preventing human activity which has a negative impact on the health of salmon and implodes their population numbers should be the priority.

Joy Dantine
Joy Dantine4 years ago


Diane L.
Diane L.4 years ago

Jami, please do a bit of research. Sea lions do also have a "choice" in that salmon is NOT their normal diet, or at least not 100% of it by far. In nature, they live in salt water, and eat many species of fish, so by venturing 150 miles upstream into freshwater, eating nothing BUT migrating (spawning) salmon is NOT "natural" at all. Again (I think I've mentioned this a dozen times now), we are NOT fishing in the Columbia River at the Bonneville Dam! So, we aren't considering killing sea lions there because of competition at all. We fish in open OCEAN water, and there is a limit to what we're allowed to catch and WHEN we're allowed to catch it.

Jami Winn
Jami Winn4 years ago

they eat salmon we eat salmon and we have the choice of something different whereas they do not its not as if they can just change their ways just because humans decided they cant help the salmon without killing the sea lions

a better alternative stop fishing in endangered salmon waters

heather g.
heather g.4 years ago

In the last few hundred years it has always been human beings who have wiped out many species of animals. I have also heard that Fisheries & Oceans in Canada undertake the same practice and are also gung-ho about killing beavers. Its hardly the sea lions that have scoured the oceans and over-fished. Why no respect for nature and animals?

rene davis
rene davis4 years ago


Lika S.
Lika S.4 years ago

Diane, not a problem... It happens. :)

Anyway, even if all salmon aren't on the endangered list, why kill sea lions for eating what they normally eat? It's not right to do that...

I'm making the efforts to not eat so much salmon, understanding that there are other species counting on me... and I like salmon, but since I can't differentiate between what is or isn't on the list, I figure I'll just not buy for a while, in hopes that my little bit can help, at least short term...

So rather than kill sea lions, maybe we should apply it to humans who go after those on endangered lists.