Warm North Pacific Waters Threaten Native Fish, Usher in Unusual Species

By Kevin Byrne, AccuWeather.com Staff Writer
October 3, 2014

Unusually high water temperatures throughout the North Pacific Ocean have brought concerns from researchers about how it could affect native species of fish as well as sightings of uncommon species.

The three areas of the North Pacific with the most notable warming trend include the Gulf of Alaska, the Bering Sea and an area off the coast of Southern California down to Baja California, Mexico, with temperatures as high as 5 degrees above average.

These sea surface temperature anomalies have remained this way for more than a year, one of the longest stretches on record, according to researchers with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

This is a sea surface temperature anomaly map in the North Pacific Ocean. The darker the red, the farther above average the sea surface temperature, according to NOAA. (Photo/NOAA)

The warmer water has prompted questions about how it will impact the marine food web, said Laurie Weitkamp, a research fisheries biologist with NOAA’s Northwest Fishery Science Center in Newport, Oregon.

A big concern for native species of fish, such as salmon, is that the primary food items they eat may no longer be available, Weitkamp said.

Potentially adding further stress to the situation, warm water also increases the metabolic rate of the fish so they have to eat more in warmer water, but there may not be enough to eat because the conditions are not suitable for their food items, Weitkamp said.

RELATED:
Great White Shark Populations Increase in Both Pacific, Atlantic Waters
PHOTOS: Rare Blue Lobster Caught in Maine
Northwest Regional Weather Radar

Nate Mantua, leader of the landscape ecology team at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center, attributes these conditions in the Gulf of Alaska to the same ridge of high pressure that’s believed to have contributed to California’s extreme drought. Storms and winds that commonly cool and stir the sea surface have been quelled by the ridge.

“If the warming persists for the whole summer and fall, some of the critters that do well in a colder, more productive ocean could suffer reduced growth, poor reproductive success and population declines,” Mantua said in a NOAA Fisheries article.

“This has happened to marine mammals, sea birds and Pacific salmon in the past. At the same time, species that do well in warmer conditions may experience increased growth, survival and abundance,” Mantua said.

Another effect likely brought about by the noticeably warmer waters is observations of different species of fish that are not known for frequenting this part of the ocean.

Earlier this past summer, a research vessel found a thresher shark in the Gulf of Alaska, which was the northernmost documented catch of the species, according to Michael Milstein, a spokesman for NOAA Fisheries.

“Thresher sharks are know for preferring warm waters,” Milstein said.

More: http://www.accuweather.com/en/weather-news/warm-north-pacific-waters-threaten-fish/34699318

If only it was a happy Labor Day for all

herring-07

Per Fish Feel:

http://www.FishFeel.orghttps://www.facebook.com/FishFeel.org

On this Labor Day, give a thought to the human slavery which is rampant in the fishing industry (not solely in Thailand). Please don’t support it or the immense animal suffering inherent with fishing.
“There is no official record of how many men are currently entrapped aboard fishing boats, but the Thai government estimates that up to 300,000 people work within its fishing industry, 90% of whom are migrants vulnerable to being tricked, trafficked and sold to the sea. So that probably means most are being held against their will.”

http://www.worldfishing.net/news101/Comment/analysis/slavery-in-fishing

Slavery in fishing

Aug 2014 Thailand is considered a major source and transit area for slavery. Credit: http://www.rubins.org/GFDL The Thailand prawn farming industry has recently received much negative publicity due to its alleged involvement in fishing slavery, reports Bryan Gibson. A six-month investigation by The Guardian newspaper has established that large numbers of men and young boys are being bought and sold like animals and held against their will on the decks of unseaworthy and usually unregistered trash fish trawlers, which specialise in catching small and juvenile fish species for conversion into processed fish meal for Thai prawn farms. Due to their low (or zero) labour cost, this force of entirely unwilling conscripts has become integral to the commercial production of farmed prawns sold in leading supermarkets around the world, including top global retailers such as Tesco, Walmart, Carrefour, Costco, Aldi, Morrisons, the Co-Operative and Iceland. And it might be considered, that with such an array of powerful buyers capable of erring on the side of right, slavery onboard fishing vessels, or forced labour connected anywhere else within a commercial food-chain, ought to have proven an easy problem to fix. One of the largest producers of prawns is Charoen Pokphand, which sells frozen and cooked prawns in the manufacture of ready meals such as prawn curries and stir fry. CP Foods told WF&A that it categorically condemns any form of forced labour and, following the allegations made in The Guardian report, is committed to ensuring that it plays no part in the company’s supply chain. The company immediately initiated a comprehensive investigation into every step of the supply chain, which is ongoing at this time.Pending the outcome of these investigations, CP Foods has suspended purchasing product for its shrimp feed business from all suppliers except those offering internationally certified, 100% by-product based fishmeal, for which they are able to verify the supply chain of all ingredients. Up to 300,000 fishing slaves are forced to work and live permanently aboard Thai ‘trash fish’ trawlers for years at a time under the threat of extreme violence and often murder. Thai ambassador to the US, Vijavat Isarabhakdi told The Guardian, “Thailand is committed to combatting human trafficking. We know a lot more needs to be done but we have also made significant progress to address the problem.” Although the Thai government has told The Guardian that “combating human trafficking is a national priority”, the newspaper’s undercover investigation unearthed a lawless and unregulated industry run by criminals; assisted in no small measure by the Thai maffia as well as government officials and sustained by the brokers who supply cheap migrant labour to boat owners. “The Thai authorities could get rid of the brokers and arrange legitimate employment,” said one high-ranking Thai official tasked with investigating human trafficking cases on condition of anonymity. “As long as boat owners still depend on brokers, and not the government to supply workers, then the problem will never go away.” Release for the enslaved only arrives when the skipper decides that the $450 he paid to the broker has been fully earned or paid-off by relatives and friends. DowngradeAfter being warned for four consecutive years about not doing enough to tackle slavery, the US Department of State has downgraded Thailand to Tier 3 in its 2014 Trafficking in Persons (TIP) report. The downgrade means Thailand could potentially face sanctions, which might include the withdrawal of US non-humanitarian and non-trade-related assistance. The Guardian conducted interviews with fishermen, boat captains, boat managers, factory owners and Thai officials from fishing ports. Thailand enjoys prime position as the world’s largest prawn exporter within a seafood-export industry estimated to be worth $7.3bn. Via multinational companies such as CP Foods, Thailand exports 500,000 tonnes of prawns annually, nearly 10% of which is farmed by CP Foods. Although slavery is illegal in every country in the world, it is estimated that 21 million men, women and children are enslaved globally, according to the International Labour Organisation. Human rights activists believe that Thailand’s seafood-export industry would collapse without slavery. They say there is little incentive for the Thai government to take a positive stance and have called for consumers and international retailers to demand action. Whenever a population becomes isolated and excluded from the political, commercial or sociological mainstream, it runs the risk of unreasonable and illegal exploitation. Thailand is considered a major source and transit area for slavery, and nearly half a million people are believed to be enslaved within Thailand’s borders. There is no official record of how many men are currently entrapped aboard fishing boats, but the Thai government estimates that up to 300,000 people work within its fishing industry, 90% of whom are migrants vulnerable to being tricked, trafficked and sold to the sea. So that probably means most are being held against their will. Aidan McQuade of Anti Slavery International states, “There are over 5.5 million children in forced labour throughout the world, and if you buy prawns from Thailand, inevitably, you are buying the product of slave labour.” And for any commercial fisherman with a vestige of caring for his fellow mankind and is searching for a new and legitimate catch source, then taking-up the legal, moral and sustainable catching of Atlantic prawns and langoustines anywhere in the upper northern hemisphere, this might be a very good place for him to start. – See more at: http://www.worldfishing.net/news101/Comment/analysis/slavery-in-fishing#sthash.9f9h4MYl.dpuf
 

Vaquita Porpoise Faces Imminent Extinction—Can It Be Saved?

http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2014/08/140813-vaquita-gulf-california-mexico-totoaba-gillnetting-china-baiji/

by Virginia Morell

for National Geographic

Published August 13, 2014

The vaquita, a small porpoise found only in the Gulf of California, is rapidly going extinct, an international team of scientists reported earlier this month.

The researchers say that the marine mammals—whose name means “little cow” in Spanish—are accidentally drowning in the gill nets local fishers deploy for fish and shrimp. A mere 97 vaquitas remain.

Vaquitas are shy creatures, and rarely seen, except when they’re pulled to the surface—dead—in nets. They’ve been known to science only since 1958, when three skulls were found on a beach. At the time, it was thought that they numbered in the low thousands. Scientists and fishers alike say the animals, with their pretty facial markings (“they look like they’re wearing lipstick and mascara,” one scientist said) and sleek bodies, are endearing.

There’s danger now that the porpoises will become the second cetacean (the first was the baiji, or Chinese river dolphin) to succumb to human pressures, most likely disappearing forever by 2018.

“It’s a complete disappointment for everybody, because we’ve all been working hard to turn this around, and the [Mexican] government has addressed this from the highest level possible,” said Lorenzo Rojas-Bracho, a cetacean conservation specialist at Mexico’s Commission of Natural Protected Areas and a member of the team.

Indeed, the Mexican government established a presidential commission on vaquita conservation in 2012, when scientists estimated the porpoise’s population at 200.

Map of Gulf of California showing the range of the vaquita porpoise, along with the vaquita reserve, nearby biosphere reserve, and proposed gill-net exclusion zone.
MAGGIE SMITH, NG STAFF. SOURCES: International Committee for the Recovery of the Vaquita; IUCN; UNEP-WCMC

Failing Measures

To stem the vaquitas’ decline, in 2005 Mexico created a refuge for them, banned all commercial fishing in the refuge’s waters, beefed up enforcement, and invested more than $30 million (U.S.) to compensate fishers and encourage them to switch to other fishing methods.

It also established the international scientific team to monitor the porpoise’s population, reproductive rates, and habitat. Its members hail from such august conservation bodies as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the International Whaling Commission, the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, and Norway’s Institute of Marine Research.

All were optimistic then. “We thought we were going to see the vaquitas’ numbers increasing by 4 percent a year,” said Barbara Taylor, a marine biologist with the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in San Diego, California, and a member of the team. “Instead, they’ve had a catastrophic decline of 18.5 percent per year.”

Chinese Demand—But Not for Vaquitas

That decline, Rojas-Bracho said, is “all due to illegal fishing that is out of control.”

In the past three years, illegal gillnetting for the totoaba, a critically endangered fish that can grow to more than six feet long (1.8 meters) and 300 pounds (136 kilograms), has surged. Unfortunately, the porpoise and the similarly sized totoaba live in the same parts of the gulf.

The totoaba’s swim bladder, highly prized as a traditional health food and medicine in China, can fetch thousands of dollars. Few fishers can resist the temptation.

“It’s like trying to control traffic while someone’s throwing money from the Empire State Building,” said Rojas-Bracho, who learned of the extent of this illegal take from several fishers who are also on the presidential commission.

The team estimates that about 435 miles (700 kilometers) of legal nets are in the water every day during the fishing season, from mid-September to mid-June. “And that’s not counting the illegal nets for the totoaba,” Taylor says.

Last-Ditch Solution

Because of the vaquita’s timid nature (a sighting at 300 feet [90 meters] is considered close), scientists can’t make visual counts of the animals. They rely instead on an array of special acoustic devices, deployed every year before the fishing season begins (they too are easily tangled in the nets), to record the sounds of the animals as they forage in the murky waters they favor. From these sounds, the researchers are able to estimate the vaquitas’ numbers.

Because the animal’s population is so low, the team says there is only one solution: Ban all gillnetting in the gulf’s upper regions, including the waters surrounding the vaquitas’ refuge. The ban must be strictly applied, even to the legal shrimp and fin fish fishery, and enforced with more police patrols on sea and land.

“It’s a hard choice,” Taylor acknowledges. Such a ban will hurt all the fishers, including those who aren’t engaged in the illegal fishery. But, she said, if Mexico doesn’t do that, it “will lose the vaquita.”

Rojas-Bracho said that Mexico, China, and the United States governments also need to work together to control—if not end—the trade in totoaba swim bladders. The dried bladders are often smuggled across the U.S. border before ending up in the Chinese marketplace.

There is a modicum of hope. Even at only 97 animals (25 of them believed to be females of reproductive age), the species can still be saved, Taylor believes. “Most marine mammals, including other cetaceans, that have been taken down through hunting have come back, so it’s not too late. But if nothing is done, they can also go extinct rapidly, as happened with the baiji. They can be gone before you know it.”

The commission will meet again at the end of August to discuss what to do next to save the vaquita.

Virginia Morell is the author of four acclaimed books, including Animal Wise: The Thoughts and Emotions of Our Fellow Creatures.

Fisherman charged for underwater assault on scuba diver

Jul 31, 2014 http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/story/26168287/fisherman-charged-for-underwater-assault-on-scuba-diver

 KONA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) –

Charges have now been filed in the scuba scuffle caught on tape in the waters off Kona.

Hawaii County Prosecutors have charged fisherman Jay Lovell with terroristic threatening in the second degree. He is accused of ripping the regulator out of Rene Umberger’s mouth eliminating her ability to breathe.

Lovell was collecting reef fish last May for the aquarium trade. Umberger is an environmentalist against the practice and says the incident isn’t stopping her from documenting aquarium fishermen.

“Violence is never appropriate but also people who are out there trying to expose and document the destructive practices on the reefs aren’t going to be intimidated by this kind of activity. Stooping to violence only hurts the cause it doesn’t help their cause,” said Rene Umberger, Reef Consultant and Diver.

The incident stirred debate around the country. Umberger says it helped people learn that aquarium fish do not always come from farms and has bolstered support against the trade.

Meanwhile Jay Lovell’s brother says he will fight the charges.

“Jay is actually looking forward to the court so all the facts of the case can actually come out. The fact that these people are targeting the industry, they’ve been threatening for over a year,” said Jim Lovell, Jay’s brother, who is also a reef fisherman. “They provoked us, they caused it, it’s on their table. It’s on their agenda and this is what they want to do.”

Jay Lovell’s court date on the misdemeanor charge is September 2nd.

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CALL TO ACTION: Oppose the Planned Killing of 16,000 Cormorants Along the Columbia River

http://www.seashepherd.org/news-and-media/2014/07/07/call-to-action-oppose-the-planned-killing-of-16000-cormorants-along-the-columbia-river-1602

Cormorants are being targeted simply because they eat salmonCormorants are being targeted simply
because they eat salmon
Photo: Sea Shepherd
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has announced plans to shoot thousands of double-crested cormorants in the Columbia River Estuary beginning next year.

Much like California sea lions at the Columbia River, cormorants are being targeted simply because they eat salmon. Federal officials are claiming that these seabirds, protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, eat too many juvenile salmon, as well as steelhead, as the fish migrate through the river estuary to the Pacific Ocean. The proposed cull program would claim the lives of 16,000 cormorants over the course of four years, with killing taking place during the birds’ nesting seasons. Oil will also be spread over cormorant eggs to suffocate the eggs and ensure that they do not hatch. While the Army Corps emphasizes the increase in the East Sand Island double-crested cormorant population in recent years, populations of these birds in general have been declining and the sustainability of this large-scale cull is questionable at best.

Sea Shepherd’s Dam Guardians were on the frontlines along the Columbia River and at the Bonneville Dam in 2012 and 2013, documenting the hazing, trapping and cruel branding of sea lions by the Oregon and Washington Departments of Fish & Wildlife for the “crime” of eating salmon. If any of the branded sea lions are determined to be eating “too many” salmon, they are killed – and the federal government has allowed these states to kill up to 92 federally protected sea lions each year until June 2016. It is important to note that “too many salmon” might constitute just one salmonid. The sea lion cull continues, despite the fact that they consume only 1-4% of the salmon, while fisheries are typically allowed to take 10-12%.

USDA bird hazer sets off explosives at the Bonneville Dam, May 2013USDA bird hazer sets off explosives at the
Bonneville Dam, May 2013
Photo: Sea Shepherd
The Army Corps reports that non-lethal methods – including “hazing with lights, reducing nesting habitat, and using human presence to flush double-crested cormorants off potential nesting sites” – have been tested. Sea Shepherd has documented bird hazers from the USDA harassing cormorants along the river, frightening the birds with explosives.

Just as the taxpayer-funded culling of sea lions at the Bonneville Dam will not solve the problem of a declining salmon population, nor will the shooting and killing of cormorants – set to cost up to $1.5 million each year of the four-year cull. The scapegoating of these innocent animals redirects the public’s focus from the real problems at the Columbia – overfishing, a polluted river filled with toxins, and the dam itself.

CALL TO ACTION: Though Sea Shepherd does not currently have Dam Guardians on the ground, we remain dedicated to protecting the animals who call the Columbia River home and exposing the true threats to this endangered salmon population. Please join us in speaking out against the planned killing of 16,000 cormorants for the “crime” of eating salmon. Here are ways you can help:

1) Attend one or both of the upcoming public meetings scheduled by the Army Corps of Engineers to discuss the proposed cull to show that you stand with the cormorants and the sea lions, as well as the salmon:

July 10 from 2:30pm to 5:30pm PT
Matt Dishman Community Center
77 N.E. Knott St.
Portland, Oregon

July 24 from 3pm to 6pm

Best Western Lincoln Inn
555 Hamburg Ave.
Astoria, Oregon

2) Submit public comments against the cull:

Email: Cormorant-EIS@usace.army.mil

Mail:

Sondra Ruckwardt
U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Portland District
Attn: CENWP-PM-E / Double-creasted cormorant draft EIS
P.O. Box 2946
Portland, OR 97208-2946

The deadline for public comments is August 4, 2014.

First sea lions. Now cormorants. Where and when will it end?

Dam Guardians
Visit our
Dam Guardians
site

5 Reasons Not to Eat Fish

Sea Lion Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Sea Lion Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

5. Seals and sea lions are scapegoated and shot by commercial fishermen and their lackeys who blame the marine mammals for dwindling fish populations. It’s the same “all here for us” mentality that ranchers and trophy hunters use to justify killing wolves.

 

Painting by  Barry K. MacKay

Painting by Barry K. MacKay

4. Cormorants are culled by the thousands, by both commercial and sport fishing interests unwilling to share “their” resources. Last April, sport fishermen in South Carolina shot over 11,000 cormorants for the crime of eating fish; and the U.S. Government is currently planning $1.5 million-a-year program that would arm federal trappers with silenced rifles and night-vision scopes to shoot thousands of Columbia River cormorants during their nesting season .

 

Featured Image -- 62263. Live fish sequester carbon. The sea absorbs about half of the billions of tons of CO2 humans produce…, but only if there’s plenty of phytoplankton, fish and other organisms living in it.

 

imagesH3BR7A8G

2. Bykill, including pelagic sea birds, turtles, marine mammals, and non-target fish species, accounts for 50% or more of some fisheries’ take. Many fisheries around the world throw away more fish than they keep.

 

 

images1. Fish are sentient beings too, no less deserving of compassion than any other species humans claim as their food. Flying in the face of what is considered popular opinion, fish have good memories, build complicated structures and show behaviour seen in primates – as well as feel pain like any other vertebrates. 

 

I’d Love to Change the World

I’ve been told that I’m not helping anything by being vegan; that I wasn’t going to be able to stop all the horrible things going on by taking a stand against animal consumption.

10151358_495324630593354_7512005859880238928_nThat’s a depressing thought, especially if you’re aware of the current holocaust happening all around us. Humans are slaughtering 6 million animals per hour. 20,000 more will die in the time it takes you to read these sentences! That’s a holocaust of farmed animals every 60 minutes. And that’s not counting fish, lobsters, shrimp, oysters, clams, krill or other sea life. But I’m not fooling myself, I know it would take a concerted, allied effort to stop these atrocities.

Even if I never saw positive results from promoting veganism in my short lifetime, there are other reasons for not eating animals. For me, veganism is about choosing not to add to the suffering our fellow Earthlings endure every day for the human appetite; it’s a form of dissent against the extreme cruelty millions of animals undergo so humans can have their steak and eat it too.

Veganism is my protest against the insanity of factory farming; against the existence of battery cages, cattle feedlots, industrialized dairies, veal crates, hog farming, commercial fishing, whaling, sealing, fur trapping, bow hunting, predator control, contest hunts, culling, derby killing and every other form of exploitation our species inflicts on the non-humans citizens of the world.

I might not be able to change the world, but at least I don’t have to be complicit in institutionalized animal cruelty. Non-human animals might hold little value to most people, but the laissez-faire acceptance of brutality and suffering will eventually come back on Homo sapiens and help facilitate the demise of the species.

In the immortal words of Woodstock headliners, Ten Years After:

“I’d love to change the world

But I don’t know what to do

So I’ll leave it up to you”

why

At Least I Leaned From My Mistakes

My uncle (god rest his soul) used to be a skipper on a charter fishing boat. He fished for salmon off the Columbia River bar (among the roughest waters in the world). It was from him that I first heard the attitude that natural predators like cougars “serve no earthly purpose.”

Being the young, environmentally-minded wildlife advocate that I was, I strongly disagreed with his viewpoint on many occasions. But, being respectful of my relatives, especially my elders, I never gave him a hard time for his outdated thinking.

A lot of good that did me. Now that I’m an uncle, my young nephew shows me nothing of the respect I gave my uncle. Although he’s three generations removed from my uncle’s era, some of my nephew’s thinking is as outdated as that of any other commercial fisherman I have known (and there have been all too many). Apparently he’s been following this blog, but like other animal exploiters who try to comment, he neglected to read the “About” page, which would have informed him that anti-animal comments would not be approved.

But here are few extracts from comments he tried to leave today: “… what exactly is the solution? Stop eating cows all together, stop allowing them to breed, and make them go extinct?” or “…get off your high horse. [again, remember that this is his uncle he's talking to] Saying that veal exists because of the dairy industry is a logical fallacy akin to: crime exists because of the existence of police officers. Veal exists because people want to eat veal. Do you honestly think that if we got rid of all dairy consumption tomorrow, no one would be able to buy veal?! On the flip side, if no one on earth was willing to buy veal, do you think that ranchers would still produce it?!”

I’m not sure what point he was trying to get across with that comment, but his clincher was: “If we were all to stop fishing tomorrow then a lot of sea lions would die.”

I might not have been a perfect example for my nephew over the years, but at least I try to learn from my mistakes.

Text and Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography © Jim Robertson

 

Crafty Cod Use Tool to Get Food: Nothing Fishy About It

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animal-emotions/201405/crafty-cod-use-tool-get-food-nothing-fishy-about-it

The more we learn about other animals the more fascinating they are

Your Custom and Cultural Quaintness Won’t Get You Out of it This Time

DSC_0131Your hatred of seals and sea lions runs deep. Your father was a commercial fisherman, like his father before him. If they taught you anything about fishing, it was that marine mammals are the enemy. They serve no earthly purpose; the only good one is a dead one.

Never mind that seals and sea lions evolved over tens of millions of years to adapt to aquatic habitats, eventually becoming nature’s perfect fishers; that species of fish and other sea life evolved in harmony with pinnipeds and so were able to withstand their level of predation; or that the reasons salmon are more scarce than they were for your grand-pappy are all because of human activity—including commercial fishing.

That so-called “evolution” stuff is just some big lie made up by “scientists” who don’t know shit from Shinola and probably work for that other arch-enemy: the federal government. (Forget that the government has practically handed you a living since they granted your ancestors their first commercial fishing license.)

Your bible tells you the Earth is only 6,000 years old and that your god loves you better than he does any damn seal or sea lions. Anything you think you have to do to feed your family is forgivable in the eyes of the lord. Studying nature, any further than learning where the schools of fish are likely to be on a given day, is heresy.

Your sense of entitlement is trumped only by your all-consuming hatred of seals and sea lions. So what if they look cute and comical hauled out on beaches or docks in the marina, those beaches and docks belong to you, not them! So do the fish they steal from you and the nets they mess up when they get entangled in them.

So you bring your rifle along whenever you’re out at sea. Shooting them, as your daddy did before you, is the one thing that makes you feel better. It feels good when you see your bullet find its mark and tear into their flesh. It’s not legal anymore, but no one’s watching or does anything about it. You’d have to be pretty obvious to get into any trouble.

Who cares that most of them don’t die outright, but instead suffer slowly with of lead poisoning or infection. Most of them sink to the bottom eventually—out of sight, out of mind.

Sometimes they wash up on your beach or haul out to give birth. It really burns you when people appreciate them and try to protect them with signs warning drivers to watch out for them.

Last week a pregnant seal hauled out and people gushed while she brought yet another seal into the world. If there’s one thing there are too many of, it’s seals and sea lions. God will back you up on that. Do-gooders waited and watched over her, placing signs around her to warn motorists.

It shouldn’t have been an issue, since the upland dunes are off-limits to driving, but your hatred of seals and sea lions blinds you to rules and regulations. The do-gooders were around all day and into the evening, so you wait until the early-morning tide, when no one will witness.

You’ve watched the seal from a distance and know just where to find her as you drive your big, jacked-up four-by-four a mile north of the Ocean Park beach approach. This is your home turf and you know exactly where to go. You find the seal and her pup just where you saw them the day before, in the upland dune grass, where the feds say you shouldn’t drive because some nesting birds take precedence over your fun.

The signs on either side of the seals are visible before the animals are, and you use them to help you zero in on your target. Shooting them would be easier, but the noise might attract attention, so you do the next best thing—you run right over the mother seal, severing her tail.

Checking on your handy work, you see that she’s bleeding badly and will no doubt die

A mother harbor seal, who had recently given birth, was found dead on the beach north of the Ocean Park beach approach last week, thought to have been a victim of an intentional vehicular killing.  Photo by SUZY WHITTEY / Chinook Observer

A mother harbor seal, who had recently given birth, was found dead on the beach north of the Ocean Park beach approach last week, thought to have been a victim of an intentional vehicular killing.
Photo by SUZY WHITTEY / Chinook Observer

from her wounds. The pup, on the other hand, is unharmed, but bleating noisily. Someone will probably nurse it back to health if they find it there, so you stuff the newborn pup in a sack, throw it in the back of the truck and bring it to your property in the woods.

What you do with the pup there, people can only speculate. It might come out later in your trial. You were sloppy this time; you left tire tracks where people don’t normally drive. It’s not like no one knows you or ever sees you driving the beach there.

You shocked a lot of people and a lot of folks are angry. People may like to celebrate fishermen, but your feeble rationalizations and your custom and cultural quaintness won’t get you out of it this time.

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson

Text and Wildlife Photography© Jim Robertson