Two More Bonneville Dam Sea Lions
by Sandy McElhaney
Oregon state officials executed two more sea lions on May 16 at the Bonneville Dam. The sea lions, accused of eating endangered salmon, were killed by lethal injection. According to a May 17 letter from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) to the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), animals branded U61 and U159 were caught on floating traps, euthanized and disposed of in accordance with applicable laws. This latest action brings the body count up to 39 dead and 11 in captivity since the killings began in 2008.
Earlier in the week, lawyers from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) were in federal court seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the killings. Appearing before Judge Michael Simon, HSUS attorney Ralph Henry said it is "completely disingenuous for the government to add the animals to a hit list while allowing fishermen to increase their take." The nonprofit and its members assert that killing sea lions will not solve the alleged salmon crisis on the Columbia River. According to HSUS, the focus should be on addressing human causes, like overfishing and hydroelectric dams.
With the sea lions consuming about 1.1 percent of the salmon and fishermen authorized to take 17 percent, advocates for the sea lions maintain that the cull has far less to do with salmon predation and far more to do with anglers seeking exclusive fishing rights to the Columbia River. Fishermen are forthright about wanting the sea lions gone. In an April 17 letter to ODFW, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission (CRITFC) complained:
At least three sea lions are currently in the Bonneville pool and disrupting ceremonial fishing. The fishers are suffering gear damage and catch loss from these sea lions. As you know a very small number of chinook salmon have crossed Bonneville Dam to date and catching these fish is difficult enough without interference from sea lions. We request that the State of Oregon place a sea lion trap in the Bonneville Dam forebay to remove these animals.CRITFC's Doug Hatch told the Columbia Basin Fish & Wildlfe News Bulletin, "It's been a real hardship for the fishermen." Hatch is among the many special interest groups on the federally-appointed Pinniped-Fishery Interaction Taskforce that voted by majority to authorize the sea lion killings in 2012. If the anglers get their way, Steller sea lions and cormorants could soon be added to the hit list.
Several animal rights groups have joined HSUS in calling foul. Since April, the Sea Lion Defense Brigade and Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have positioned monitors on the banks of the Columbia. A class of San Francisco 3rd graders launched "The Most Adorable Animal Rights Campaign Ever" and the social media campaign Save Misty the Dolphin (SMTD) is calling on its 6500 member facebook community to pressure Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber to stop the killings. The group, whose motto is "never be silent and never give up," employs information and direct action in a mission to save vulnerable marine mammals. Among the members of SMTD was young Melissa Bowers, who lost a brief battle with brain cancer last Monday evening. As she lay in a hospital bed earlier that day, Bowers made a final post on facebook:
Via Save Misty the Dolphin: The sea lions of the Columbia River will have their day in court tomorrow. In case there is any doubt, WE ARE ROOTING FOR THE SEA LIONS! Wishing all the best to the legal team at The Humane Society of the United States!Judge Simon is expected to issue a ruling before the end of the month. Without legal intervention, the states are authorized to kill up to 18 more sea lions in 20
Spring Chinook Fishing to Reopen in Lower Columbia by Allen Thomas, The Columbian, 5/22/12
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