Sea lions horn in on south
coast fish Salmon - Most of Gold
Beach's sport catch was being stolen right off of
anglers' gear, which led to hiring hazers
August 08, 2006 LORI TOBIAS
GOLD BEACH -- When Ernie Weston hooked a 25-pound
salmon last summer on Rogue River Bay, he did what
he usually does: He handed the rod to his wife,
Rena, and grabbed the net to haul in the fish.
Only this time, as he reached into the net, a sea
lion beat him to the catch. The massive pinniped
snapped up the salmon, the net and nearly Ernie.
"My hand was caught in the net and he just took
off," the 82-year-old angler recalled. "I was almost
clear over and in the water when my hand just
happened to come loose."
If it hadn't, the couple believe he might have
The Westons' story is just one of many that led the
Port of Gold Beach this year to hire hazers for the
first time, to keep sea lions out of Rogue Bay and
protect the local fishing industry.
Sea lions last year stole an estimated 70 percent to
80 percent of the fish caught in the bay -- taking
them right off people's rods and from their nets on
the water, said Port Commissioner Lawrence Johnson.
It's no small matter, Johnson said. He estimates
that about 40 percent of the south Oregon coastal
community's economy comes from the charter fishing
industry and spin-off business in gear shops, hotels
and the like. Gold Beach has about 2,800 residents.
On a summer day at the height of fishing season,
it's not unusual to see more than 100 guided and
private boats fishing the bay.
"Last summer was absolutely a disaster," said Rena
Weston, a part-time Gold Beach resident. "They grab
your fish and they rip the belly out and your fish
is gone. You pay for a guide and a motel, and you go
home with nothing."
So now each day, one of two hazers motors out onto
the bay. There, guided by radio reports from
fishermen, they use "seal bombs" -- like an
underwater firecracker -- and "popper shells" --
shotgun shells with a secondary firecracker -- to
chase the sea lions from the river out into the
The $40,000 tab for the program was paid for by the
Curry Sportfishing Association and approved by state
and federal agencies that protect sea lions under
the U.S. Marine Mammal Protection Act.
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