Sans Sea Lions, the Port of Astoria Would Miss the Boat

Situated near the mouth of the Columbia River at the top of the Oregon Coast, Astoria, can be a nice small town to visit, if you like sea lions. If not, it can be a cold, heartless and otherwise pretty boring place. DSC_0043

The entertaining pinnipeds lounging, cavorting and guarding their tiny spot on a couple of the docks in the town’s East Moring Basin is a must see for anyone who enjoys connecting with the wildlife close-up.

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Unfortunately, a few of the locals are more fulfilled by hating and shooting the friendly, comical sea lions despite the steady draw they bring to this depressed and rather depressing town which makes a temporary living through extraction of dwindling natural resources, such as fish and trees (many of which are shipped to China on giant, diesel carbon-spewing container ships). Not unlike so many other instances in society, it’s really only a few local people, claiming all for humans, who want the sea lions evicted, but they don’t mind ruining it for everyone else.                                                          

Also see: http://www.kptv.com/story/29106664/sea-lion-shot-in-head-on-cowlitz-river-reward-offered-to-find-shooter#.VV05AFMtWuU.facebook

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, All Rights Reserved

A similar situation is going on in nearby Gearhart, just north of Seaside, Oregon. A herd of Roosevelt elk recently moved into the quietish town (after being crowded out of their former home by development, including a Home Depot, Petco, Staples, Dollar Store, a couple of auto dealerships, and a relocated, expanded super-Costco, with more to come soon—all, ironically—on “Dolphin” Lane). For now they enjoy the dunes along the beach, but that could all change if the few who resent wildlife in their proximity have their way…

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When Humans Declared War on Fish

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/10/opinion/sunday/when-humans-declared-war-on-fish.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20150510
When Humans Declared War on Fish

By PAUL GREENBERG and BORIS WORM

ON Friday we humans observed V-E Day, the end to one part of a global catastrophe that cost the planet at least 60 million lives. But if we were fish, we would have marked the day differently – as the beginning of a campaign of violence against our taxonomic classes, one that has resulted in trillions of casualties.

Oddly, the war itself was a great reprieve for many marine species. Just as Axis and Allied submarines and mines made the transportation of war matériel a highly perilous endeavor, they similarly interfered with fishing. The ability to catch staple seafoods, like cod, declined markedly. Freed from human pursuit, overexploited species multiplied in abundance.

But World War II also brought a leap in human ingenuity, power and technical ability that led to an unprecedented assault on our oceans. Not only did ships themselves become larger, faster and more numerous, but the war-derived technologies they carried exponentially increased their fishing power.

Take sonar. Before the 1930s, electronic echolocation was a barely functioning concept. It allowed operators to trace the vague contours of the seafloor topography and crudely track the pathway of a large moving object. But the war pushed forward dramatic advances in sonar technology; by its end, sophisticated devices, developed for hunting submarines, had grown infinitely more precise, and could now be repurposed to hunt fish.

Schools of fish could soon be pinpointed to within a few yards, and clearly differentiated from the sea’s bottom. Coupled with high-powered diesel engines that had been developed during the global conflict, the modern fishing vessel became a kind of war machine with a completely new arsenal: lightweight polymer-based nets, monofilament long lines that could extend for miles and onboard freezers capable of storing a day’s catch for months at a time.

Even human resources developed during the war were later redirected toward fishing: Japanese fighter pilots adept at spotting subsurface Allied submarines were later retrained to look for whales. Likewise, more than a few former Allied pilots found postwar employment hunting bluefin tuna and Atlantic menhaden.

In some ways, the “war machine” wasn’t a metaphor. Across South Asia, leftover explosives were “recycled” for “bomb fishing,” an obscenely destructive way of killing coastal fish, which turned many coral reefs into rubble fields. And the technological overkill continued into the Cold War era: Satellite imagery and GPS technology originally intended to track the movements of the Soviet nuclear arsenal eventually allowed well-populated fish habitats to be clearly identified from space.

Because the war incentivized the creation of ships with much longer oceangoing ranges, it also meant that fishing was transformed from a local endeavor into a global one. “Industrial fishing,” maybe the first globalized economic enterprise, meant the wholesale, permanent occupation of marine ecosystems, instead of the local raids practiced by previous generations.

In addition, emerging economies of scale meant that it wasn’t just the target fish that suffered. With the invention of postwar super trawlers that scooped up everything in their path, a sort of scorched-earth approach to fishing became commonplace.

Taken collectively, the rise of postwar fishing technology meant that the global reported catch rose from some 15 million metric tons at war’s end to 85 million metric tons today – the equivalent, in weight, of the entire human population at the turn of the 20th century, removed from the sea each and every year.

Only the turn of the third millennium saw a new kind of reprieve, this time not caused by human adversity, but by the insight that we need to make peace with other species as well. Growing signs of exhaustion and failure in global fisheries made humans reconsider the totality of their assault.

Marine protected areas, an environmental version of a demilitarized zone, started to spring up, and now cover some 3.5 percent of the ocean. Countries formerly at war began to work together to hammer out new deals for fish, exemplified by both the recent revision of the Common Fisheries Policy in Europe and new efforts underway at the United Nations to better regulate fishing on the high seas, the 60 percent of the oceans outside national control.

Collateral damage to sharks, turtles, whales and sea birds is increasingly becoming unacceptable. And some of those same technologies once used to kill fish with precision are now being used to save them: War-inspired satellite technology is being deployed to identify and pursue rogue vessels fishing illegally.

But in remembering the end of World War II and the deliberate steps that led to a lasting peace, we might contemplate a broader Marshall Plan, which would further restrain our destructive tendencies and technological powers elsewhere, not just in fishing the oceans, but in mining, drilling and otherwise exploiting them.

To be sure, the postwar assault on fish mostly sprang from an honorable intention to feed a growing human population that boomed in a prosperous postwar world. But as in war, everybody loses when there is nothing left to fight for. Only when we fully embrace that simple fact, and act accordingly, will our celebrations resonate among what the author Henry Beston called those “other nations caught with ourselves in the net of life and time.”

Paul Greenberg<http://paulgreenberg.org/> is the author, most recently, of “American Catch.” Boris Worm<http://wormlab.biology.dal.ca/> is a professor of marine conservation biology at Dalhousie University, Nova Scotia.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on May 10, 2015, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: When Humans Declared War on Fish.

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Endangered Perspective: The Alarming Case of the Atlantic Puffin

http://www.alternativesjournal.ca/community/blogs/wild-side/endangered-perspective-alarming-case-atlantic-puffin

Puffins by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr

Puffins by Brian Gratwicke \ CC BY 2.0 via Flickr

There’s perhaps no seabird more iconic to the Maritimes than the Atlantic puffin, a bird as modest and beautiful as the region itself.

At first glance this seabird resembles the penguins of Antarctica, with a black back and white underbelly, but what sets the Atlantic puffin apart is the spectacular colouration of its bill and face, which blossom with sharps reds, yellows and blues during mating season. When the season ends, however, this rainbow beak sheds much of its bulk and becomes a dull, uniform grey. This transformation is so dramatic it was originally thought the Atlantic puffin was two separate species.

The Atlantic puffin is a poor flier, beating its wings 300-400 times a minute just to stay airborne. They’re even prone to crash landings. But what they lack in flight, they make up for at sea. The puffin spends the majority of its life in water, either floating on the waves or diving to extreme depths in pursuit of its fishy food. Its wings are used as powerful flippers and it can snatch several dozen fish with each dive.

The exploitation of these adorable mariners began in the 1600s and took the usual forms.

The exploitation of these adorable mariners began in the 1600s and took the usual forms. We hunted them for their meat, fat and feathers; we destroyed their breeding groups and robbed their burrows of eggs; we introduced invasive pests like feral cats and rats to their remote island colonies; we even caught scores of them with our fishing gear, first by accident and later on purpose.

It’s nearly impossible to tell how abundant puffins used to be on the east coast, but they certainly numbered in the millions. 365,000 breeding pairs is the best modern estimate I could find, encompassing colonies from northern Maine to the Canadian Arctic. Approximately 60 per cent of those 365,000 pairs are found on three islands in Witless Bay, Newfoundland, about half an hour south of St. John’s.

There are smaller colonies dotting the east coast, ranging from the 10,000 puffins nesting on Machias Seal Island in New Brunswick to the few hundred living across the entire province of Nova Scotia, mainly on Cape Breton and on Pearl Island in Lunenburg County.

We don’t hunt them anymore. We don’t touch their eggs or fish irresponsibly in their waters, but there’s still something very insidious taking place in the aforementioned island reserves, something which is claiming the lives of thousands of puffin babies and putting the species at risk.

They’re starving to death.

The stomachs of recently deceased babies were filled with gravel and dirt, a sure sign of starvation.

This phenomena was first observed in the 1960s in Norway, with its coastal islands home to one of the largest colonies of Atlantic puffin in the world. Fewer and fewer babies were surviving each year, culminating in a 99.9 per cent mortality rate by 1977. The stomachs of recently deceased babies were filled with gravel and dirt, a sure sign of starvation.

This tragedy was linked to the collapse of fish stocks, namely herring, due to overfishing in the region. Similar drops in survival rates were observed in the 1980s in Witless Bay following the collapse of capelin stocks. Now with climate change warming the oceans and remaining fish stocks migrating to cooler waters, puffin parents are left with no fish small enough to feed their children.

Only in the last couple years, starvation has been observed among puffins in both Maine and New Brunswick, a terrifying testament to the state of our coast.

For the sake of this seabird, Atlantic Canada must do its part to encourage sustainable fishing practices and to combat climate change. Either that or, heaven forbid, we stop using the Atlantic puffin in our tourism ads.

Lawsuit filed to stop cormorant slaughter by federal agencies

http://audubonportland.org/news/april20-2015

April 20, 2015: Five conservation and animal welfare organizations initiated a lawsuit today against the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Wildlife Services to stop the slaughter of thousands of Double-crested Cormorants in the Columbia River basin. According to the lawsuit, the agencies are scapegoating the native birds for salmon declines while ignoring the real threat to salmon: mismanagement of the federal hydropower system. Unless stopped, the agencies will kill more than 15 percent of the entire population of Double-crested Cormorants west of the Rocky Mountains.

The federal agencies are set to kill more than 10,000 Double-crested Cormorants using shotguns as the birds forage for food over water. Snipers with night vision goggles and high-powered rifles will also shoot birds from elevated platforms as the birds care for their eggs and young on their nesting grounds at East Sand Island in the Columbia River. The agencies also plan to destroy more than 26,000 Double-crested Cormorant nests through oiling of eggs, egg failure, and starvation of nestlings whose parents have been shot.

“This is not about birds versus fish,” said Bob Sallinger, Audubon Society of Portland conservation director. “The Corps and other federal agencies have proposed rolling back dam operations that benefit salmon while at the same time targeting thousands of cormorants. Blaming salmon and steelhead declines on wild birds that have coexisted with salmon since time immemorial is nothing more than a diversion.”

The lawsuit identifies several ways in which the Corps and Fish and Wildlife Service violated federal laws in their decision to move forward with the cormorant slaughter, including by refusing to analyze alternative dam operations to benefit salmon as required by the National Environmental Policy Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In addition, the agencies failed to utilize available non-lethal methods of cormorant control, such as habitat modification on East Sand Island.

“The Corps has lost four lawsuits in federal court over the past decade due to its failure to address the impacts of dams on salmon,” said Stephen Wells, ALDF executive director. “Rather than addressing this ongoing violation of federal law, the Corps is now trying to blame wild birds who co-existed with healthy salmon runs for millennia before the Corps of Engineers came on the scene.”

It is particularly troubling that the Corps and the Service both admit that this slaughter will drive cormorant populations below sustainable levels. The agencies define a “sustainable” cormorant population as one that is “able to maintain a long-term trend with numbers above a level that would not result in a major decline or cause a species to be threatened or endangered.”

“It is unprecedented that federal agencies would deliberately drive a native species below levels defined as sustainable,” said Michael Harris, Friends of Animals’ legal director. “We expect the federal government to protect native wildlife, not intentionally cause major declines.”

“The agencies need to stop scapegoating these native birds,” said Collette Adkins, a senior attorney at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The Corps’ refusal to modify dam operations is the real threat to salmon, and the deaths of thousands of cormorants will be another casualty of the agency’s mismanagement of the Columbia River ecosystem.”

“The saddest part about this action is that it will do little or nothing to protect salmon,” said Sharnelle Fee, director of the Wildlife Center of the North Coast. “The science supporting this lethal control action is remarkably weak and this action is virtually meaningless from a salmon recovery perspective.”

Cormorants eat a very small portion of migrating salmon and also eat their predators, so the killing will have little benefit for salmon. But the killing will have a significant impact on the cormorant population. According to scientific experts, cormorant populations are under tremendous pressure throughout the Western United States from natural hazards such as drought and climate change. They are also under pressure from deliberate hazing, harassment and lethal control by humans. Western cormorant populations are currently less than 10 percent of their historic levels.

The plaintiffs on this lawsuit are: Audubon Society of Portland, Center for Biological Diversity, Wildlife Center of the North Coast, Animal Legal Defense Fund, and Friends of Animals. Plaintiffs are represented by Dan Rohlf and Earthrise Law Center. The plaintiffs will seek an injunction to stop the killing while the case proceeds through the court system.

Complaint for Declaratory and Injunctive Relief – filed by plaintiffs on April 20, 2015.

Learn more about the Audubon Society of Portland’s work to protect cormorants on East Sand Island.

How You Can Help

Please make a donation to support the Audubon Society of Portland’s efforts to protect East Sand Island cormorants from horrific lethal control.

Double-crested Cormorant - Jim Cruce
Double-crested Cormorant – Jim Cruce

Groups sue Corps over Cormorant-Kill

April 23, 2015

The Army Corps of Engineers proposes to kill thousands of the double-crested cormorants nesting on Sand Island near the mouth of the Columbia River because the birds eat too many young salmon and steelhead.
The Wildlife Center of the North Coast joins lawsuit against cormorant killing

COLUMBIA RIVER — A permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers needed to proceed with its plan to kill thousands of double-crested cormorants nesting on the Lower Columbia River’s East Sand Island is now in place — and so is the first lawsuit.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a depredation permit April 13. The permit, valid through Jan. 31, 2016, will allow contractors to kill 3,489 double-crested cormorants and 5,879 nests, 105 Brandt’s cormorants and 10 pelagic cormorants in 2015.

On April 20, the Audubon Society of Portland, along with four other nonprofit or volunteer-led organizations, filed a complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief against the Corps, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services, which is authorized by the Fish and Wildlife Service to kill the allowed number of birds and eggs.

The Wildlife Center of the North Coast, a private volunteer-based nonprofit, recently joined the lawsuit.

Audubon argues cormorants are being blamed for damage to salmon runs that is actually caused by dams, and that the Corps’ management plan would cause the Western population of double-crested cormorants to dip below “sustainable levels” as defined by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service itself.

With the lawsuit filed, the Audubon Society of Portland will seek an injunction to put a halt this year to the Corps’ plans to cut the nesting population on the island almost in half by 2018.

“I don’t know exactly where this is going to take us,” said Amy Echols, assistant chief with the Corps’ public affairs office in Portland, about the complaint.

Bob Sallinger, the society’s conservation director, is also concerned about the timing of the culling. Peak nesting season is approaching on the island — Oregon State University researchers on the island say the first eggs are usually laid between mid-April and early May — and the Corps estimates that an additional 3,489 nestlings and eggs might die if their parents are shot and they are orphaned. A Corps spokesperson said contractors are on the island now, erecting fencing that will separate out nesting areas, but that it will be several more weeks before they begin killing the birds.

More: http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20150423/wildlife-groups-sue-corps-over-cormorants

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Port to Fence off Astoria Sea Lions

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

http://www.dailyastorian.com/DA/port/20150422/port-to-fence-off-sea-lions
The Port of Astoria is putting up barriers to sea lions in the East End Mooring Basin.
By Edward StrattonThe Daily Astorian  April 22, 2015

The Port of Astoria will begin fencing off the docks at the East End Mooring Basin this week to keep sea lions off, Executive Director Jim Knight announced at the Port of Astoria Commission meeting Tuesday night.

The obligation of the Port is to protect the publicly owned docks, he said, and other possible solutions, such as lightly electrified pads, didn’t work out.

“I’m also curious to see where the sea lions go,” Knight said, adding jokingly he hopes they won’t make their way to the Port’s West End Mooring Basin.

Commissioner Stephen Fulton asked about an offer he’d heard in the community to build a sea lion-specific dock.

Mike Weston, the Port’s director of business development and operations, said sometime last year, the Port had been approached by Sea Shepherd with an offer to pay for a sea lion dock. But the offer would have stipulated that the Port expel the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife from the East End Mooring Basin, Weston added, and the Port can’t control what the state does.

ODFW periodically traps and brands sea lions at the basin, as part of a tracking effort. It’s authorized by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to kill up to 93 sea lions a year found predating on salmon at Bonneville Dam.

Larger issue

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The sea lion issue has been a divisive one, with members of the Sea Lion Defense Brigade regularly attending Port meetings and squaring off with diametrically opposed audience members, and often Port Commissioner Bill Hunsinger.

“We don’t have to, in the Port of Astoria, provide a sanctuary for sea lions,” Hunsinger said, adding that nature’s balance is out of whack, with sea lions possibly finding a new place to breed and live full time now that they’re starving in California.

Biologists from NOAA have pointed to odd wind patterns leading to rising ocean temperatures affecting the food source of sea lions, largely sardines. Female sea lions are taking longer to find food for their pups, who are looking for food on their own before they are ready, and washing up emaciated along the West Coast. Meanwhile, sea lions are moving north and into the Columbia River to take advantage of strong runs of smelt and salmon.

Numbers of sea lions spiked during the smelt run in March, with one count by the ODFW estimating more than 2,300 in the East End Mooring Basin. The situation seems to have boiled over, with a federal investigation by NOAA agents into possible sea lion shootings at the basin earlier this month.

“Clearly there is something wrong with ocean conditions,” and sea lions need more support than ever before, Astoria resident Ted Thomas said. He asked the Port Commission to publicly condemn the possible shootings, state its support for the Marine Mammal Protection Act and release to the public the same surveillance tape footage Port staff gave to NOAA investigators.

Members of the Sea Lion Defense Brigade, including Stacey McKenney and Veronica Montoya, approached and commented about how the sea lions are so noisy because of the ODFW branding.

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Mystery blob in the Pacific messes up US weather and ecosystems

Thousands of seabirds called Cassin’s auklets have been found dead along the Pacific shore, and conservationists have had to rescue scores of starving sea lions on beaches in southern California.

http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn27362-mystery-blob-in-the-pacific-messes-up-us-weather-and-ecosystems.html#.VTFO22d0y1t

16 April 2015 by Eli Kintisch

An unusual threat is looming off the Pacific coast of North America from Juneau in Alaska to Baja California. Now roughly 2000 kilometres wide and 100 metres deep, a mass of warm water that scientists are calling “the blob” has lingered off the coast for a year and a half and has set temperature records, with waters between 1 °C and 4 °C warmer than normal.

Fresh research published in Geophysical Research Letters has examined the causes and impacts of this area of water, which has grown more recently.

The blob has changed water-circulation patterns, affected inland weather and reshuffled ecosystems at sea. Although scientists say the planet’s warming oceans may not be responsible for the mysterious and long-lived anomaly, some see it as an early warning of changes that might be coming to the Pacific in the next few decades.

Satellite imagery first alerted scientists to the strange formation in August 2013, when the roundish blob was seen over the Gulf of Alaska. Researchers think that a long-lasting weather pattern called a high-pressure “ridge” deflected winds that stir up cool waters from the deep and bring cool air and water from high latitudes.

 

&amp;amp;lt;a href=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/N6831/jump/NewScientist/ns_section_environment;key=environment+dn27362+nologin+News+blob+Pacific+US+thunderstorms+salmon+sea-lions+marine-ecosystem+Pacific-Decadal-Oscillation+climate-change;tile=7;sz=450×250;ord=1234567890?”&amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;lt;img src=”http://ad.doubleclick.net/N6831/ad/NewScientist/ns_section_environment;key=environment+dn27362+nologin+News+blob+Pacific+US+thunderstorms+salmon+sea-lions+marine-ecosystem+Pacific-Decadal-Oscillation+climate-change;tile=7;sz=450×250;ord=1234567890?&#8221; /&amp;amp;gt;&amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;gt;

Unusually warm sea-surface temperatures are being observed in the North Pacific. The darker the red colouring, the more above average the temperature (Image: NOAA)

Months later, fishermen and officials around Alaska reported sightings of species found in more temperate or even tropical waters, including skipjack tuna, thresher sharks and sunfish. Other marine species showed up thousands of kilometres north of their normal ranges, including pygmy killer whales and tropical species of copepods – tiny crustaceans that are key to marine food webs.

“I’ve never seen some of these species here before,” says plankton expert Bill Peterson of the Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, Washington – part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Spreading warmth

The anomaly has spread out over the last 12 months, with warm water showing up all the way from Alaska to the central Mexican coast. Physical oceanographers have speculated that the blob is influenced by a major climate pattern known as the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), a combination of several phenomena that have the effect of warming water across the eastern Pacific for periods of 4 to 20 years.

Yet the patterns of warming seem to be different this time round, says oceanographer Mark Ohman of Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego, California. “This is a phenomenon beyond the typical PDO-like oscillations we’ve seen for the recent decades,” he adds. “I’m in a state of confusion.”

Inland, the blob contributed to a number of unusual weather events along the Pacific Northwest last summer, including an uptick in thunderstorms and lightning – and the resulting forest fires.

But the biggest impacts so far have concerned marine species. Peterson fears that a big drop in copepod populations in waters off the Pacific Northwest could doom harvests of various species of salmon – a multibillion-dollar industry – for years to come. “They had nothing to eat,” he says of juveniles that ventured out from rivers into the blob last year.

Thousands of seabirds called Cassin’s auklets have been found dead along the Pacific shore, and conservationists have had to rescue scores of starving sea lions on beaches in southern California.

Journal reference: Geophysical Research Letters, DOI: 10.1002/2015GL063306

Also See: http://www.grindtv.com/wildlife/wind-sailors-litter-west-coast-beaches/#6kzccAsk8UihaDOz.97

Public Help is Urged: 20 Sea Lions Shot Dead On Northwest Coast

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http://www.opb.org/news/article/sea-lions-under-the-gun/

20 Sea Lions Dead, Most from Gunshots, On Northwest Coast



In the past two months 20 sea lions have washed up dead in Oregon and Washington. The majority of the animals were shot.

The animals have been found mainly near the mouth of the Columbia River, a hot spot for salmon.

A marine mammal researcher told The Oregonian they’re being killed by fishermen who view them as competition for their catch.

Sean Stanley, with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Law Enforcement in Portland, says people who shoot sea lions face up to 20,000 dollars in fines and a year in prison. But they’re tough cases to crack.

“Public Help is the single largest way in which we catch people who shoot sea lions or violate the marine protection act.”

Sea lions are federally protected but wildlife managers are allowed to kill the ones that eat salmon at Bonneville dam on the Columbia River.

Conservationists fear that sets a bad example for the fishermen and others who interact with these animals elsewhere.

If you have information about sea lion deaths call 1 800 853 1964.

Agents probe possible sea lion shootings

http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20150409/agents-probe-possible-sea-lion-shootings?utm_source=Daily+Astorian+Updates&utm_campaign=f27d5e502d-TEMPLATE_Daily_Astorian_Newsletter_Update&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_e787c9ed3c-f27d5e502d-109860249

By Edward StrattonThe Daily Astorian

Published:April 9, 2015 8:31AM
Last changed:April 9, 2015 8:44AM

Photo Courtesy of Sea Lion Defense Brigade
A California sea lion hauled out at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin appears to have been shot.

Photo Courtesy of Sea Lion Defense Brigade
Sea Lion Defense Brigade members found 19 bullet casings on the causeway at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin.

Photo Courtesy of Sea Lion Defense Brigade
A California sea lion hauled out at the Port of Astoria’s East End Mooring Basin bleeds from a fresh wound. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is investigating the possible shooting of sea lions.

On Monday, members of the Sea Lion Defense Brigade reported finding 19 bullet casings on the East End Mooring Basin causeway. Over the Easter weekend, they’d posted pictures of several animals on their Facebook page with open wounds and pockmarks that look as if they’d been shot.

“We can tell you that NOAA office of law enforcement has received a complaint, and we are investigating the possible shooting of sea lions at the East End Mooring Basin,” said Sean Stanley, a special agent with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Stanley wouldn’t comment further, citing the ongoing case.

Sea lions and other pinnipeds are protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act. NOAA authorizes wildlife managers in Oregon and Washington to trap and kill fewer than 100 sea lions a year seen eating salmon at the Bonneville dam.

But there have been recent reports, from the one in Astoria to others along the North Coast, of them washing up on beaches with what could be bullet wounds.

Anyone with information about any violations of the marine mammal act are asked to call NOAA’s hotline at 800-853-1964.

Port of Astoria Executive Director Jim Knight said NOAA went to the basin and found 19 .380-caliber bullet casings, and the Port has turned over surveillance video to investigators. Knight said he’s been told of a few dead sea lions, including one on Clatsop Spit, another at the basin and another in between the U.S. Coast Guard cutters on the 17th Street Dock.

Fort Stevens State Park ranger Dustin Bessette said he’s noticed six sea lions between Gearhart and the South Jetty washing up dead.

“It’s kind of early,” he said, adding that sea lions washing up are a yearly occurrence. “I expect them to show up on the beach to molt, but I’ve only seen one of those.”

On one occasion, Bessette said, he went to the beach with an assistant from the Seaside Aquarium and found a dead sea lion with what first looked to him like a wound from a .22-caliber rifle or bird shot.

“It looks to be bullet holes from someone shooting them,” he said. “My guess is a fisherman, right off the bat.”

Bessette cautioned that only a necropsy can tell for certain whether they were bullet holes.

“If it’s one that shows up on the beach, we tell the Seaside Aquarium,” Bessette said. “If we don’t get to it within three or four days, my response last year was to bury them.”

Tiffany Boothe, an administrative assistant at the Seaside Aquarium, said her organization helps with the necropsies and does get reports of a number of shot animals each year.

“In the recent week, we’ve been getting a lot of calls,” Boothe said. “Usually, they’re from the Sea Lion Defense Brigade. They’re reporting all sorts of things.”

Stanley reported earlier this month to the Chinook Observer that NOAA’s case into the killing of a mother harbor seal on the Long Beach (Wash.) Peninsula last year was closed, with no actionable leads. The seal had been run over. (See related story link below)

The Sea Lion Defense Brigade monitors actions regarding sea lions on their Facebook page, decrying their treatment. It has more than 4,000 likes and has been around for several years.

Another Facebook page, “You Know You Hate Sea Lions When …” started March 25 as a sort of online rebuttal, a place for people to voice their displeasure with sea lions. Some of its more than 200 members went so far as to post photos of buckshot shells and other ammunition, talking about the bygone days when fishermen could simply shoot sea lions eating their fish.

“Met a few (sea lions) on the shrimp grounds, They are no longer active,” Ted Johnson wrote on the page.

Related Stories

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny a permit to kill 11,000 cormorants

Tell the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny a permit to kill 11,000 cormorants. ·  Trouble viewing this email? Try our web version.
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OPPOSE CORMORANT SLAUGHTER
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Double-crested Cormorant with eggs
A Double-crested Cormorant protects its eggs on East Sand Island.
Urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny the permit that will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to kill 11,000 cormorants.
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Dear Jim,

The Army Corps of Engineers is moving ahead with a misguided plan to kill 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants—15 percent of the entire Double-crested Cormorant population west of the Rocky Mountains—and destroy 26,000 nests.

In order to carry out this slaughter, the Corps needs a permit from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS). We have a very short window of time to ask the USFWS to deny the permit and save these birds.

Urge the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny the permit that will allow the Army Corps of Engineers to kill 11,000 Double-crested Cormorants and destroy 26,000 nests.

The cormorants live and nest on East Sand Island, a globally-significant Important Bird Area (IBA) in Oregon’s lower Columbia River estuary. In the Final Environmental Impact Statement, the Fish and Wildlife Service itself acknowledges that the proposed plan would reduce the population of cormorants below the number they previously said was sustainable. While cormorants do prey on salmon, the fish are endangered because of dams, pollution, habitat loss, and an array of other factors—not because of the cormorants.

According to the Audubon Society of Portland, which is closely tracking this issue, “It is time for the US Army Corps to do a ground-up review of its entire approach to managing birds in the Columbia Estuary.” Audubon opposes the Corps’ plan to slaughter thousands of cormorants and we have urged the Corps and its partners instead to review and rebuild their strategy for management of avian predation on fish on a regional scale. Such a strategy needs to be based on sound science, fully employ and evaluate non-lethal measures of reducing avian predation, and consider a full range of alternatives beyond manipulation and control of native wildlife.

Send a letter today urging the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to deny the permit that will allow thousands of cormorants to be killed at East Sand Island!