Sea Lions Eating Record Number
by Wilson Chow
NEAR NORTH BONNEVILLE, WASH. --- There is alarming news out of Bonneville Dam. This season there are more sea lions than ever before and new estimates show they are eating record number of endangered salmon.
"We've got a lot of sea lions this year," said Robert Stansell with the US Army Corps of Engineers. "We've had the most sea lions in one day than we've seen in any of the last six years."
This year the sea lions are also hungrier than ever. The marine mammals devoured an estimated 3,400 salmon so far, enough for a record kill, but Stansell said there are several weeks left in the salmon season.
Marine biologists said the number of sea lions at Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington are starting to fall as they head to California for breeding season.
Researchers told NorthWest Cable News, the animals are also getting smarter and deadlier. The sea lions found an area near the dam's spillway where boats can not travel for safety reasons and hazing efforts will not reach them from the shoreline.
Since the sea lions are federally protected, wildlife officials from Oregon and Washington can only haze them with non-lethal force. Now there are signs even the hazing, which includes the use of rubber bullets and noises, are not working as well as before.
"After a while they learn to ignore or avoid the hazing boats," said Robin Brown with Oregon Fish and Wildlife. He said it is time to start looking at another option, including the use of lethal force.
Idaho, Oregon and Washington all applied for a permit that would allow killing of the federally protected species, but a decision is not expected for another one to three years.
"With the number of fish that's been taken, obviously we're losing ground," said Stansell. For next year, a task force will study new ways to keep the sea lions from eating the endangered salmon.
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