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

image

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

016

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.

 

<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?”><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?” /></a>

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.
Audubon logo | ACTION ALERT
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.
Take Action ›

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!

Sea Lions do not have any other food choices

From Sea Lion Defense Brigade:

SLDB observers report that the steller sea lions on the Columbia River are a beautiful sight and one of the best things about the return of the spring Chinook salmon and the Pacific Lamprey.

They have an ancient predator prey relationship that spans back over ten thousand years on the Columbia River. The Pacific Lamprey are the sea lions food of choice and the Pacific Lamprey like the sea lions are today were once deemed “predator” to the Chinook salmon by sport fishermen and completely eradicated from the Columbia River Basin by ODFW from approximately 1960-1980s.

It is absolutely heinous the way the big corporate media portrays the sea lions return to the Columbia River. It is horrifying the way the state and federal policies are written to allow the hazing of the steller sea lions and the trapping and branding and killing of the California sea lions for eating as little as one fish out of the Columbia River at the Bonneville Dam.

Tax payer dollars are being wasted to attack majestic creatures in their native home to scapegoat and kill animals that do not have any other food choices than to eat fish and other aquatic life. Current science supports the importance of crucial top predators and the importance of bio diversity in the Bio Region to increase the chances for all species to be able to survive.

ODFW worked to cause of the eradication of the sea lion’s original and favorite food source. And ODFW also was successful in destroying the Chinook salmon’s original natural predator by clearing the Columbia River basin of the Pacific Lamprey and now they are targeting the native sea lions.

ODFW was successful in destroying 450 millions years of Mother’s Natures work in only twenty years all to appease the cries from the sport fishermen that once stated that the Pacific lamprey were also like what they currently say about the sea ions that the lamprey were eating “to Much” of their salmon.

Today the USDA’s bombing destroys the tranquility of what a day on the Columbia River is supposed to be and Pacific Lamprey is now being produced at the Bonneville Dam hatchery.

The USDA’s assaults destroys any chance a visitor to the area may have who is scouting to see the elusive and shy Big Foot on the City of North Bonneville’s heritage trail walk.

Many visitors travel to Oregon because they are thrilled to get the chance to see wildlife in their native habitat, and by the way this will never happen while the USDA guy is shooting.

There is joy to be had experiencing these animals in their native habitat and getting the opportunity to hear their vocalizations can be life changing for some people. Big Foot and the beautiful sea lions in the Columbia River Gorge need more protection not less SLDB observer report.

See More

'SLDB observers report that the steller sea lions on the Columbia River are a beautiful sight and one of the best things about the return of the spring Chinook salmon and the Pacific Lamprey.</p>
<p>They have an ancient predator prey relationship that spans back over ten thousand years on the Columbia River. The Pacific Lamprey are the sea lions food of choice and the Pacific Lamprey like the sea lions are today were once deemed "predator" to the  Chinook salmon by sport fishermen  and  completely eradicated from the Columbia River Basin by ODFW from approximately 1960-1980s. </p>
<p> It is absolutely heinous the way the big corporate media portrays the sea lions return to the Columbia River. It is horrifying the way the state and federal policies are written to allow the hazing of the steller sea lions and the trapping and branding and killing of the California sea lions for eating as little as one fish out of the Columbia River at the Bonneville Dam. </p>
<p>Tax payer dollars are being wasted to attack majestic creatures in their native home to scapegoat and kill animals that do not have any other food choices than to eat fish and other aquatic life. Current science supports the importance of crucial top predators and the importance of bio diversity in the Bio Region to increase the chances for all species to be able to survive.</p>
<p>ODFW worked to cause of the eradication of the sea lion's original and favorite food source. And ODFW also was successful in  destroying the Chinook salmon's original natural predator by clearing the Columbia River basin of the Pacific Lamprey and now they are targeting the native sea lions. </p>
<p> ODFW was successful in destroying 450 millions years of Mother's Natures work in only twenty years all to appease the cries from the sport fishermen that once stated that the Pacific lamprey were also like what they currently say about the sea ions that the lamprey were eating “to Much" of their salmon.  </p>
<p>Today the USDA's bombing destroys the tranquility of what a day on the Columbia River is supposed to be and Pacific Lamprey is now being produced at the Bonneville Dam hatchery. </p>
<p>The USDA's assaults destroys any chance a visitor to  the area  may have who is scouting to see the elusive and shy Big Foot on the City of North Bonneville's heritage trail walk.</p>
<p> Many visitors travel to Oregon because they are thrilled to get the chance to see wildlife in their native habitat, and by the way this will never happen while the USDA guy is shooting.</p>
<p>There is joy to be had experiencing these animals in their native habitat and getting the opportunity to hear their vocalizations can be life changing for some people. Big Foot and the beautiful sea lions in the Columbia River Gorge need more protection not less SLDB observer report.'

Sea lions adapt to changing climate

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

http://www.dailyastorian.com/Local_News/20150325/sea-lions-adapt-to-changing-climate

NOAA Northwest Fisheries Science Center  March 25, 2015

Climate change and food shortages are behind an increased push of pinnipeds into the Columbia River.

In Southern California hundreds of starving sea lion pups are washing up on beaches, filling marine mammal care centers that scarcely can hold them all.

Meanwhile thousands of adult male California sea lions are surging into the Pacific Northwest, crowding onto docks and jetties in coastal communities.

How can animals from the same population be struggling in one region while thriving in another? The answer lies in the division of family responsibilities between male and female sea lions, and the different ways each responds to an everchanging ocean, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle.

“We’re seeing the population adjust to the environment as the environment changes,” said Sharon Melin, a sea lion biologist with the fisheries science center.

The environmental changes affecting the sea lions can be traced to unusually weak winds off the West Coast over the last year. Without cooling winds, scientists say, the Pacific Ocean warmed as much as 2 to 5 degrees Celsius (35.6 to 41 degrees Farenheit) above average. What started as a patchwork of warm water from Southern California to Alaska in 2014 has since grown into a vast expanse, affecting everything from plankton at the bottom of the food chain to sea lions near the top.

“The warming is about as strong as anything in the historical record,” said Nathan Mantua, who leads the Landscape Ecology Team at the Southwest Fisheries Science Center.

Struggle for food

The Channel Islands rookeries where nearly all California sea lions raise their young off Southern California sit in the middle of the warm expanse. Female sea lions have strong ties to the rookeries. They take foraging trips of a few days at a time before returning to the rookeries to nurse their pups.

But the unusually warm water has apparently shifted the distribution of their prey, making it harder for females to find enough food to support the nutritional needs of their pups. Their hungry pups, it now appears, are struggling to gain weight and have begun striking out from the rookeries on their own. Many do not make it and instead wash up on shore dead or emaciated.

Since the early 1970s the California sea lion population underwent unprecedented growth. The species is protected by the 1972 Marine Mammal Protection Act and is estimated to number about 300,000 along the U.S. West Coast. But the growth has slowed in recent years as ocean conditions have turned especially unfavorable for juvenile survival. That could lead to population declines in coming years, biologists say.

“We are working on data to look at whether the population might be approaching its resource limits,” Melin told reporters in a recent conference call.

Sea lions serve as an indicator of ocean conditions because they are visible and are sensitive to small environmental and ecological changes, Melin said. The warm temperatures may well be affecting other species in less obvious ways.

“There are probably other things going on in the ecosystem we may not be seeing,” she said.

Bachelors

Unlike female sea lions, males have no lasting obligations to females or young. After mating at the rookeries in midsummer, they leave the rookeries and roam as far as Oregon, Washington and Alaska in search of food.

“They’re bachelors,” said Mark Lowry of the Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, California. “They just go wherever they can to find something to eat.”

Male sea lions search out prey with high energy content, especially oily fish such as herring and sardines, said Robert DeLong, who leads a program to study the California Current Ecosystem at the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Increasing numbers have found their way to the mouth of the Columbia River to feed on increasingly strong runs of eulachon, also called smelt, and have taken up residence on docks and jetties near Astoria.

“More sea lions learned last year and even more will learn this year that this is a good place to find food,” DeLong said of the Columbia River. “They’ve learned these fish are there now and they won’t forget that.”

DeLong and Steve Jeffries, a research biologist with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, attached satellite-linked tracking tags to 15 sea lions feeding on salmon near Bremerton (Wash.) in November and December. Four of those sea lions are now at the mouth of the Columbia, Jeffries said.

Counts around Astoria rose from a few hundred in January to nearly 2,000 in February, exceeding numbers in previous years at the same time. The count includes some animals from the eastern stock of Steller sea lions, removed from the List of Endangered and Threatened Wildlife in 2013. The California sea lions also feed on spring chinook salmon and steelhead. Some of the chinook and steelhead stocks are listed under the Endangered Species Act and NOAA Fisheries is working with state officials to address sea lion predation.

By the beginning of May, the male sea lions depart for the summer breeding season at the rookeries in Southern California.

“It’s like flipping a switch,” DeLong said. “Suddenly it’s time to go.”

Warm conditions may continue

The warm expanse of ocean extends to depths of 60 to 100 meters, Mantua said, and will likely take months to dissipate even if normal winds resume. Biologists expect poor feeding conditions for California sea lions will likely continue near their rookeries while warm ocean conditions persist. A more typical spring and summer with strong and persistent winds from the north would cool the water and likely improve foraging conditions along the West Coast.

The tropical El Niño just declared by NOAA is one wild card that may affect West Coast ocean conditions over the next year. If the El Niño continues or intensifies through 2015, it would favor winds and ocean currents that support another year of warm conditions along the West Coast.

More info.:

For more information on sea lion strandings, visit http://tinyurl.com/nxqhwkw. For information on field research in the sea lion rookeries, visit http://tinyurl.com/no7heje. For information on det