Salmon-eating sea lions targeted at Columbia
This March 2019 photo was taken a few miles from the
mouth of the Klamath River by KBC News. From Google:
estimate, based on California sea lions' metabolic
needs, suggests that 100 animals feeding in that area
consume at least 13,000 salmon each spring."
BOISE, Idaho (AP) — More California sea lions preying on
imperiled salmon in the Columbia River below a hydroelectric
project on the Oregon-Washington border are being killed
under a revised policy, federal authorities said Friday.
Marine Fisheries Service made public reduced criteria for
removing sea lions at Bonneville Dam about 145 miles (235
kilometers) from the Pacific Ocean.
guidelines that went into effect April 17 permit any
California sea lion seen in the area on five occasions or
seen eating a fish to be put on a list for lethal removal.
criteria required both those marks to be met. Officials say
10 sea lions have been killed so far this year, most as a
result of the policy change.
Anderson, the agency’s marine mammal program manager, said
the Pinniped-Fishery Interaction Task Force decided to make
the change after dissatisfaction with current efforts. A
study found the change could increase the number of sea
lions killed by 66 percent.
authorized to remove 92 California sea lions annually from
the area, but have never come close to that number.
Meanwhile, billions of dollars have been spent in Idaho,
Oregon and Washington to save 13 species of Columbia Basin
salmon and steelhead protected under the Endangered Species
steelhead congregate near the bottom of the dam to go up
fish ladders, facing some delays in “getting through the
pinch points, and sea lions have figured that out,” Anderson
sea lions at the dam are all males, with some 200 to 300
showing up and numbers typically peaking in the spring.
up on salmon, with some sea lions reaching 1,000 pounds (455
kilograms), before swimming roughly 800 miles (1,300
kilometers) to breeding beaches at the Channel Islands off
the California coast. Once there they try to establish
territories, not eating for a month while mating with
females in their area of control and fighting off rival
“It’s kind of
classic biology,” Anderson said. “Get as big as you can to
try to be successful.”
70,000 California sea lions are drawn to the breeding
beaches. The overall population rebounded from about 30,000
in the late 1960s to an estimated 300,000 today, following
the passage of the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act.
lions at Bonneville Dam were a rarity until they started
showing up in the early 2000s. Authorities began the lethal
removal list in 2008. Since then, some 400 sea lions have
made the list, with 229 removed. Of those, 15 have been sent
to zoos or aquariums, seven died during capture, and 207
have been euthanized.
lions “is not a long-term solution,” said Russ Kiefer, an
Idaho Fish and Game fisheries biologist, noting the main
problem for salmon and steelhead is habitat degradation
along their migration corridor. “It won’t be a game changer,
but it will help.”
sockeye salmon, which reproduce in high-elevation Idaho
lakes, teetered on extinction for several years before an
elaborate hatchery program involving Fish and Game was
Last year for
the first time, Stellar sea lions outnumbered California sea
lions at Bonneville Dam, Anderson said. Federal authorities
don’t have authorization to remove Stellar sea lions, which
can reach 2,000 pounds (900 kilograms). Stellar sea lions at
the dam are also all males, bulking up before heading back
to the Pacific Ocean and then, the majority, north to
President Donald Trump signed a law that allows any
California sea lion spotted 112 miles (180 kilometers)
upriver from the mouth of the Columbia River to be put on
the lethal removal list.
federal officials haven’t been doing that because they don’t
have authorization, a process that would first require a
request from Idaho, Oregon or Washington.
with fishing treaty rights can also make that request:
Confederated Tribes of the Yakama Nation in Washington, Nez
Perce Tribe in Idaho, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla
Indian Reservation in Oregon, and Confederated Tribes of the
Warm Springs in Oregon.
In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
section 107, any copyrighted material
herein is distributed without profit or
payment to those who have expressed a
prior interest in receiving this
information for non-profit research and
educational purposes only. For more
information go to: