Sea Lions Kill Salmon, Government Kills Sea Lions

CNN.com reports:

“Those favoring the removal say the sea lions are damaging salmon runs listed under the Endangered Species Act and protected at great expense.

The states estimate the sea lions eat up to about 4 percent of the spring chinook run as it schools at the base of the Bonneville Dam to pass through fish ladders en route to upriver spawning grounds.

The Humane Society contends the animals are only a small, although visible, pressure on the health of the runs and that the required “significant negative impact” hasn’t been established.”

Dr. M (1801 Posts)

Craig McClain is the Executive Director of the Lousiana University Marine Consortium. He has conducted deep-sea research for 20 years and published over 50 papers in the area. He has participated in and led dozens of oceanographic expeditions taken him to the Antarctic and the most remote regions of the Pacific and Atlantic. Craig’s research focuses on how energy drives the biology of marine invertebrates from individuals to ecosystems, specifically, seeking to uncover how organisms are adapted to different levels of carbon availability, i.e. food, and how this determines the kinds and number of species in different parts of the oceans. Additionally, Craig is obsessed with the size of things. Sometimes this translated into actually scientific research. Craig’s research has been featured on National Public Radio, Discovery Channel, Fox News, National Geographic and ABC News. In addition to his scientific research, Craig also advocates the need for scientists to connect with the public and is the founder and chief editor of the acclaimed Deep-Sea News (http://deepseanews.com/), a popular ocean-themed blog that has won numerous awards. His writing has been featured in Cosmos, Science Illustrated, American Scientist, Wired, Mental Floss, and the Open Lab: The Best Science Writing on the Web.


5 Replies to “Sea Lions Kill Salmon, Government Kills Sea Lions”

  1. Of course, they wouldn’t need to school at the base of the dam — and hence be an attractive, easy food supply for the sea lions — if the dam didn’t exist in the first place. Just another perspective on the issue from someone who’s never dealt with dams or their effects.

    Perhaps the larger issue is the “rock, paper, scissors” question of whether the ESA beats the MMPA, since both of them evidently beat the Sustainable Fisheries Act.

  2. Good point dave. How is the legislation hierarchy determined? Anyone know?

    And about dams… yeah I’m going have to ask you to move your dam to the basement, if you could just pick your stuff and move down now that’d be great.. mmm yeah thanks. Sorry, there is an Office Space quip for everything. But seriously, people need power right? What’s a politician to do?

    Also, sea lions eat “4% of the spring chinook run”. Is that enough to be concerned about?? 4% is awfully low to me, can’t they just eat it? Are we going to shoot bears for taking 1% of the salmon run in the forests?

  3. As one who used to do ESA work in the PNW, I’ll try to clear up a few things:

    1) The legislation isn’t in a heirarchy, and there is considerable litlgation all the time over which law is “right.” In the case of Salmon, the Chinook in question are an ESA listed run, being eaten by an MMPA protected pinniped. Because these are listed fish, the SFA, and Magnuson-Stevens don’t apply – you can’t harvest listed chinook in the Columbia or anywhere else.

    2) That 4% decline caused by one source (the sea lions) is just part of the equation. Long before the buffet gets set up, the chinook have losses as they migrate downstream as juveniles (some due to dams, some due to other habitat losses, some due to being small fish being eaten by other larger fish). Then you have a certain % of the fish that die at sea for a variety of reasons, and other adults that, migrating in, don’t even live to get to the dam in question. So yes, 4% makes a huge difference.

    3)Yes, if the dams didn’t exist the sea lions wouldn’t have any place to congregate. I still have a bumpersticker from my Seattle days calling for their removal. But hydro power hase been the engine allowing the economies of places like Portland and Seattle to grow, so I don’t think the political will is there to take them down. And NMFS, the federal agency charged with sorting this all out, has been HEAVILY litigated in federal district court in Portland for trying to develop a salmon recovery strategy that acknowledges the mostly permanent status of the dams.

    4). Finally, consider that the sea lions have been reported to be both repeat visitors (i.e. same sea lions each year), and teaching tehir young to come here an dfish. That means they will be eating listed salmon for a long time if something isn’t done. Unlike the salmon, Californai Sea lions aren’t endangered or threatened – they have MMPA protection, but only because they are marine mammals.

  4. The San Francisco Chronicle has an Op Ed a few weeks ago that described how seals and other pinnipeds were blamed for destroying the salmon runs in 1886:

    Salmon harvesting in California began in the mid-1850s as an inland fishery, was stimulated by the canning industry, and soon met a fate similar to the infamous Cannery Row sardines. The first salmon cannery opened on the Sacramento River in 1864 near Broderick. By 1881, there were 20, but by 1885, only six canneries remained in operation, and in 1919, the last one closed. Having captured the easy pickings of fish moving on their way upstream to breed, commercial salmon fishing was forced to move to the ocean, where it has remained to this day.

    Hapless sea lions got blamed for the decline in 1886, just like today. Of seals, the commissioners stated that they “sit at the entrance of the Golden Gate as royal toll gatherers and take the lion’s share of the schools of the finny tribe as they pass from the broad Pacific into the Bay of San Francisco…” The commissioners urged, without success, the repeal of legislation that protected sea lions.

    Then as today, the pinniped blamers ignored the role of humans in the decimation of the salmon runs…

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