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

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.

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.

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.

What do you think?

California sea lion swimming image by flickr user alanvernon / CC BY 2.0


Daithi O.
David Murray5 years ago

Petition signed

Yvonne S.
Yvonne S5 years ago

These lovely creatures have as much right to life as we do. They also have as much right to eat as we do. We are able to get alternative food when we can't get fish but the sea lions can't. They should be left alone.

Debbie Kendrick
Debbie K5 years ago

Are you kidding me. Killing sea lions because they eat too much? I have heard it all now. Tracking repeat offenders? This story takes the prize for the dumbest antics ever recorded on the last day of the year 2010. Manmade problems are what shakes up the ego system. Sea lions are not to blame for the shortage of salmon. We are. Take care of the real problem. Happily signed and posted. Thank you

Colin Hope
Colin Hope6 years ago

Noted and signed!!

Glen V.
Glen Venezio6 years ago

This issue was covered by HLN journalist Jane Velez-Mitchell, on her show ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL, on June 4, 2010. Jane interviewed Matt Rossell of IN DEFENSE OF ANIMALS' Northwest office in Portland about the sea lions issue. See video clip of the segment at

For more info, go to

Glen V.
Glen Venezio6 years ago

Jane Velez-Mitchell, of the show ISSUES WITH JANE VELEZ-MITCHELL on HLN (Headline News channel) will be covering the sea lions story either this Friday, May 28th or the next Friday, depending on another developing story.......... Jane's show airs from 7 to 8pm Eastern time on HLN. A clip of the segment will also end up on her show's web page a day or two after the airing ( , look under MAN VS NATURE section on the right side of the page). I will try to post here again when I confirm the actual date of the story.................I suggested the story to Jane and researched it for her, in conjunction with In Defense of Animals and the Sea Lion Defense Brigade............

Glen V.
Glen Venezio6 years ago

The Sea Lion Defense Brigade is a group of activists who are holding vigils at the Bonneville Dam to observe the government's activities trapping and killing the sea lions. You can see their blog and other information at

There is also an action alert you can send, from the website of In Defense of Animals, which is at:

Kurt Valentine

Please sign this petition to support marine health implementations

Kurt Valentine

Please sign this petition to support marine health implementations

Kizzy Higgins
.6 years ago

I'm overwhelmed..its so not fair for the seals..they're only doing what naturally comes to them to do and they're paying for it!?! Its not right. It has to stop, so disgusting. I'm horrified at this!!