U.S. killing sea lions to save endangered fish

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife has killed 16 sea lions so far

A plan to kill California sea lions to save an endangered run of fish on a river that cuts through Portland, Oregon, appears to be working just months after wildlife officials began euthanizing the giant marine mammals, biologists said Thursday.

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife began killing the sea lions in January after getting permission from federal authorities late last year. They have killed 16 so far, including three on Wednesday, said department spokeswoman Michelle Dennehy.

In the same period, 2,400 steelhead fish have reached the upper Willamette River and its tributaries to spawn this spring — the most in three years and double last year’s tally, the agency said.

Less than 30 years ago, the number of steelhead making that journey was at least 15,000 a year but pollution and the construction of dams on key rivers reduced that number dramatically.

Sea lions have been eating an additional 25 per cent of all returning steelhead at that spot in the Willamette River south of Portland, said Shaun Clements, ODFW’s senior policy analyst.

“We’ve definitely been able to reduce predation this year and provide some relief to the fish,” he said. “We’re saving considerable numbers of them.”

READ MORE: Is that Yogi Bear? Couple leaves picnic on B.C. beach as uninvited bear moves in

Clements added that other factors, such as better conditions in the Pacific Ocean, are also contributing to larger numbers of steelhead making it over the falls this year.

After a weeklong lull, state biologists are now killing a second wave of sea lions that have travelled to the base of the falls to munch on another salmonid species, the spring chinook.

The spring chinook run is also listed under the Endangered Species Act and biologists estimate sea lions are eating up to 9% of the returning adults each spring, Clements said. Up to 40 sea lions are preying on the chinook, he said, while only 12 were going after the steelhead.

The adult male sea lions, which weigh nearly 1,000 pounds (454 kilograms) each, have learned that they can loiter under Willamette Falls, a horseshoe-shaped waterfall south of Portland, and snack on the vulnerable steelhead and salmon as the fish power their way upriver to the streams where they hatched.

Steelhead start life as freshwater trout and then travel to sea from inland rivers, grow to adulthood as steelhead in the Pacific Ocean and then return to their natal river to spawn. They can grow to 55 pounds (25 kilograms) and live up to 11 years.

The sea lions breed each summer off Southern California and northern Mexico, then the males cruise up the Pacific Coast to forage. Hunted for their thick fur, the mammals’ numbers dropped dramatically but have rebounded from 30,000 in the late 1960s to about 300,000 today because of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.

With their numbers growing, the dog-faced sea lions are venturing ever farther inland up the Columbia River and its tributaries in Oregon and Washington. The two states have had a similar program in place for years to kill California sea lions that eat threatened and endangered salmon at the Bonneville Dam on the Columbia River.

READ MORE: Dead sea lion discovered on Hornby Island shoreline

The latest permit from the National Marine Fisheries Service says the targeted sea lions must have been observed eating at least one steelhead near Willamette Falls between Nov. 1 and Aug. 15 or have been observed in the same stretch of river on two consecutive days in that period.

Individual sea lions are identified by trained observers who look at brands on their back or tags on their flippers.

The animals are being euthanized by a veterinarian by lethal injection in the same way that dogs and cats are put down, Wright said. Their flesh goes to a rendering plant.

Before a sea lion is killed, the state must find out if there is a zoo or aquarium that wants the animal. If so, Oregon wildlife managers must hold the sea lion for 48 hours before killing it.

———

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Federal Green Party leader visits Ashcroft

Elizabeth May was in town with Mission-Matsqui-Fraser Canyon Green Party nominee John Kidder

Historic Cornwall fire lookout to get some tender loving care

Volunteers are being sought for a work bee at the lookout in August

Ashcroft resident now in his 25th year of riding to raise funds for BC Lung Association

Wayne Chorneychuk once more getting ready to ride in the Bicycle Trek for Life and Breath

Wildfire smoke can pose serious health risks

Tips to help you stay safe during the smoky summer season

Communities in Bloom judges coming to Ashcroft

All are invited to a meet and greet, where prizes for best gardens and street will be presented

Joaquin ‘El Chapo’ Guzman sentenced to life in prison

Experts say he will likely wind up at the federal government’s Supermax prison in Florence, Colorado

Olympic softball qualifier gets $150K boost from provincial government

2019 Americas Qualifier to be held in Surrey from Aug. 25-Sept. 1

Gas price inquiry questions Trans Mountain capacity, company denies collusion

The first of up to four days of oral hearings in the inquiry continue in Vancouver

‘Benzos’ and fentanyl a deadly cocktail causing a growing concern on B.C. streets

Overdoses caused by benzodiazepines can’t be reversed with opioid-overdose antidote naloxone

Will you be celebrating national hotdog day with any of these crazy flavours?

The popularity of hotdogs spans generations, cultures

Former home of accused Penticton shooter vandalized

Ex-wife of man who is accused of murdering four people had her house vandalized

Survivor of near-drowning in B.C. lake viewing life through new eyes

“If I died that day, the baby wouldn’t know his dad,” said 31-year-old Mariano Santander-Melo.

‘Beyond the call’: Teen in police custody gets birthday surprise by B.C. Mountie

Unusual celebration started when Staff Sgt. Paul Vadik went to visit the teen in his Coquitlam cell

Thunderstorms forecast across B.C.

Environment Canada has issued a thunderstorm watch for B.C.’s central Interior

Most Read