Sea Lions Caught at Bonneville Dam Monday
by Quinton Smith
BONNEVILLE - The Oregon Fish & Wildlife Department began trapping sea lions Monday below Bonneville Dam, but none of the four which climbed into cages were on a list of animals eligible to be euthanized. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Friday gave Oregon and Washington new authorization to trap and remove California sea lions eating endangered spring chinook, permission that was stopped last fall by a federal appeals court.
Biologists used a research permit this spring to put large floating traps below the dam to catch and brand sea lions for identification.
Now, any sea lion that hauls itself out of the river and onto the trap's platform is checked against a list of 78 California sea lions meeting three criteria for removal. The criteria includes being observed eating salmon or steelhead below Bonneville between Jan. 1 and May 31 of any year; being observed below Bonneville for a total of five days between Jan. 1 and May 31 of any year; and, being observed below the dam after having been hazed.
In the traps early Monday was a Steller sea lion, which cannot be removed, and three California sea lions, said Rick Hargrave, an ODFW spokesman. One of the California sea lions had no brands and the two others had not met the 5-day criteria. Biologists branded the one sea lion and then trucked the other two to Astoria and returned them to the Columbia River.
If a trapped California sea lion meets removal criteria, the states have to hold the animal for 48 hours to see if an aquarium or zoo is interested in taking it. Ten sea lions went to aquariums or zoos in 2008 and 2009, but none last year. The states have euthanized 27 animals, including 14 in 2010.
U.S. Army Corps of Engineer observers have counted 50 California sea lions this year, the fewest since 2003. In a weekly report issued Friday, Corps biologist Robert Stansell said the number of salmon killed by California sea lions this year "is going to be much lower than the last few years."
Two sea lions have been observed just above Bonneville, Stansell said, and the states plan to put a trap up there. For the first time, NOAA's authorization includes permission to remove California sea lions above the dam.
Killing Sea Lions Will Not Save Columbia River Salmon by John Balzar, Seattle Times, 2/7/8
Sea Lions vs. Salmon: Restore Balance and Common Sense by Fidelia Andy, Seattle Times, 2/15/8
Survival of Snake River Salmon & Steelhead Data compiled July 2004 by www.bluefish.org
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