In the past two months, 20 sea lions have been found dead in northern Oregon and southern Washington. Most had been shot, including a sea lion found on Sunday and another found on the following day. Most of the dead marine animals have been found near the mouth of the Columbia River, or a few miles north or south of there.
Dalin D’Alessandro, a Portland State University research assistant with the Northern Oregon-Southern Washington Marine Mammal Stranding Network, indeed notes that there has been a “surge” of Stellar and California sea lions found dead who had been shot. One of those found recently had three bullets in its neck while another had been shot in the back.
Fishermen, frustrated that the animals are competing for fish, are a likely culpit, says D’Alessandro; she indeed says that the number of dead sea lions found typically increases wen salmon season starts. But this year, the number of dead sea lions found has been four times as great.
Controversial Plan to Shoot Sea Lions in Bonneville Dam Area
Marine mammals Marine mammals have been protected since the early ’70s. Prior to that there were actually bounties on the animals and they were hunted quite actively. It is certainly unprecedented within that time frame.
Rice also noted the controversy surrounding the shooting of sea lions around the Bonneville Dam. A 2008 plan approved by the National Marine Fisheries Service allowed for 85 sea lions to be shot, in order to protect depleted salmon runs. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sought a temporary stay of execution but this was denied in 2009.
In 2010, shotgun firecrackers, rubber buckshot and lethal injection killed ten sea lions; at the same time, the number of salmon the marine animals consumer approached record levels, leading activists to argue that the plan to kill sea lions was “futile.” Both Oregon’s and Washingtons fisheries agencies petitioned to have sea lions removed from federal protection as a species that is “threatened” in 2011. In May of 2011, removing or killing sea lions in the Bonneville Dam area was permitted in Oregon and Washington.
Scientists and activists have continued to oppose the controversial decision to cull sea lions, arguing that such a plan does not respond to the real reason for declining fisheries. The HSUS and the Wild Fish Conservancy, along with two citizens, have filed suit to stop the killing of as many as 460 sea lions at Bonneville Dam over the next five years. It is not sea lions, says the HSUS, who are the major causes for salmon losses but dams, hatcheries, other predators including birds and fishing itself.
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