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Sea lion traps set to resume on Columbia River


The one-sided love affair between the California sea lion and the succulent salmon of the Columbia River has been going on since time immemorial, with salmon typically coming out the losers in the affair.

But with many West Coast salmon runs now endangered or threatened, fisheries officials have been struggling to find ways to keep salmon off the menu, at least near Bonneville Dam on the border between Washington and Oregon, where sea lions have learned to gather for easy feasts. In 2007, sea lions ate about 3,800 of the 88,474 salmon that passed through the dam.

“Lethal removal” is back on the table. Washington and Oregon wildlife officials plan to resume setting up traps for sea lions near the dam as early as next week, with an eye toward relocating or euthanizing up to 71 known repeat offenders after March 1 — if a federal appeals court does not intervene. The trapping had been temporarily suspended since six sea lions were accidentally killed last spring because of malfunctions in the floating cages.

“We’re not looking to remove all California sea lions, or cull them. We’re looking to remove very specific, individual animals that are the source of the problem below Bonneville Dam,” said Garth Griffin, who is supervising the program for the National Marine Fisheries Service in Portland, Ore.

The Humane Society of the United States has filed suit to block the culling. The U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals had granted a stay, allowing trappings but not executions, until March 1. Now, everyone is waiting to see whether the court will step in and grant a new reprieve. If not, and if wildlife officials can’t find zoos or marine sanctuaries to take them, the worst of the predators will be euthanized, possibly as early as next month.

In their appeal, animal advocates say sea lions kill far fewer fish than the human fishermen who this year will be allowed to reel in 12% of the spring Chinook run on the Columbia. “Sea lions and salmon co-evolved,” said Sharon Young, marine issues field director for the Humane Society.  “But evolution never counted on us putting dams in the middle of rivers, and drawing out water for agriculture, and putting trawlers in the ocean and lining the banks with everybody who can afford a fishing rod.”

-- Kim Murphy

Photo: National Marine Fisheries Service

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I can't believe this.

I've fished for salmon on the Columbia, and I can tell you absolutely that the sea lions are not to blame for this problem. I can't believe people would come up with a plan like this, or that the public would find this remotely acceptable. How do those people get jobs for themselves? Who is accountable for this kind of mindset? I think we need a changing of the guard somewhere.

I would never vote for anyone who could support something like this, and I really resent paying any taxes to people or agencies that would come up with nonsense like this when there is a real problem on our hands that has nothing to do with sea lions.

I think it's sad to read some boob yammering about how "salmon are a natural resource. Look it up." As if this justifies killing sea lions.

It's sad because it's pathetically ignorant of what is really happening here, it's pathetically ignorant of what is best for salmon AND sea lions AND the environment, and it's pathetically indicitive of the thought processes of the boobs who make policies like this one.

Killing sea lions will endanger both species. And the idea that salmon are a "natural resource" because you can "harvest" them is also very telling. This "natural resource" is disappearing because of precisely that kind of naked, destructive, unadulterated ignorance.

I'm from the Pacific NW, and salmon and sea lions are both extremely important parts of our natural wild region. Harming either of them just to prop up the failing and culpable fishing industry for awhile longer while they kill every last fish is just unbellievable. What a sad, stupid, and short sighted decision it was to kill sea lions for what amounts to no reason at all.

There are some really stupid people in this world.

At the end of the second to last paragraph in the story, it reads ". . . the worst of the predators will be euthanized. . ." referencing a few seals. If salmon are endangered, it isn't because of seals. It is because humans want to harvest them for human consumption. Humans are the undeniably the worst predator - and there's no talk of euthanizing humans.

I got it!! How 'bout we start serving up sea-lion steaks and what not?? MMMM... Sea lion. I mean, they're meats gotta taste good, right? There diet consists of fish and shellfish and they have layers of blubber that will undoubtedly add to the flavor of their meat. MMMM...sea lion. DEEEELISH

Sorry lady, salmon are a natural resource. Look up the meaning in the dictionary. Sea lions are not.

How about we remove salmon from our own menus, and leave the sea lions alone. How short-sighted can we possibly be? How many times have wildlife officials attempted to "manage away" natural predators in order to make it easier for us to avoid changing our own destructive behavior? And now. How many times has that actually worked?

That's right, never. It's never worked. The people who keep coming up with plans like this are idiots. They always act so surprised when their target species goes extinct anyway, when unforseen consequences creep up, when their management plans fail to work according to... plan.

Hey, how about we try something different this time? How about we try stepping back, removing the fishermen from the equation, and letting nature re-balance herself? Nature is a lot better at this than some silly government bureaucrat who gets paid to kill one species in order to make more of another species in order to kill that other species. Makes no sense.

When are we going to deal with the "one sided love affair" between fishermen and "succulent salmon"? Salmon are disappearing all over the Pacific, and killing sea lions is NOT going to help to solve this problem. I can't believe anyone would allow such a hair brained scheme when what is really needed is to curb over-fishing and figure out how to get fish safely through the dams. (Or breach the dams.)

This is not a once species issue. This is about an entire ecosystem in peril. The very last thing the government should be doing is looking at eliminating natural predators. Remember, sea lions and salmon and other natural predators of salmon co-existed for thousands of years without peril to salmon. The salmon have only been disappearing in the past 100 years... coinciding with non-Native fishing, and with the advent of dams. THIS is where we need to be looking for solutions and political sacrifices. NOT at sea lions.

Ridiculous. Maybe when we demand that wildlife is overseen by an agency that does not receive all its funding from fishing and hunting, maybe then we will have someone looking out for all the species in an ecosystem and not just the "harvestable" ones. They aren't doing this to save salmon, and it won't help them one bit. They're doing this simply to keep on "harvesting" (killing) salmon until they're completely gone. This is just wrong.


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