Mixed Feeling About Killing Sea Lions

bakerite

Active Member
So maybe WDFW or ODFW can transplant a couple of Transient Killer Whales to the dam sites. That would cause some traffis jams on I84! Maybe just cheaper to find some pre-1972 commercial fishermen and let them do their thing.
 

Jakob B

Washington Native and college age angler
The sea lions have never taken more salmon than they need. Can't say the same for us; we take too many every year.
Have you ever seen those pigs in the lower Duwamish? I have watched one sea lion in 5 minutes rip the bellies out 8-10 pink salmon only seeming to care for it after the first bite than going to get another one.

Our harvesting monitoring techniques have gotten better and more conservative over the years yet we are still human and greed always tips the scale. However, sealions do not have a complex enough brain to understand wildlife management or moral dilemmas. So humans and sealions cannot be compared very well. But to say they never "take more salmon than they need" is not exactly how I would put it. Nearly all California sealions in the Puget Sound are young males unable to find a mate down in Cali so up they come in search of our salmon and docks to lay on. I suspect warmer ocean currents in recent years also aid in their thought to migrate.

They're currently federally protected but they need to be seriously managed. The state has their hands tied till everyone is on board with a plan to manage. Thats one of the serious drawbacks of dealing with state/federal/tribal agreements and policy.

Once humans have altered the ecosystem there becomes more and more things to manage. Its like a boat that's springing holes but they've ran out of flex seal to cover the new holes. If someone were to hand them another roll of flex tape some people may have reservations about it but at the end of the day it must be done to at least try and slow the sinking.

Jakob
 

Lance Magnuson

WFF Supporter
I wish that this action was approved when the sea lions were decimating the Lake Washington steelhead returns 30 years ago. They were trapping, relocating and even produced a fake Orca to dissuade this marine mammal assault.

All actions were laughed at as this was a cute problem with Hershel the friendly sea lion.

I would have taken care of this problem immediately with my 30.06 and bought my own shells.

Steelhead runs on both the Sammamish and Cedar Rivers are a memory. But guess what, there are more sea lions than ever.

I prefer steelhead.
 

Salmo_g

WFF Supporter
Does killing abundant but protected wildlife to help other, more vulnerable protected wildlife represent good, scientific, and ethical wildlife management, or does it represent an attempt to avoid taking action on more important, but politically difficult, causes of a species’ decline at the expense of the targeted animals?

In many of these cases, the animals and birds that agencies chose to cull were not the root cause of the threatened species’ decline.

I think the answer is that it is neither good, scientific, nor ethical. I say that because I believe there is no right answer. There are more likely than not some wrong answers, but I haven't given that much thought. The opportunity to address the root causes of salmonid decline is a train that has already left the station and ain't coming back. Science tells us how we could restore a lot of habitat, but not to its former level of productivity. Society at large has been very clear that we want cheap energy, economic over environmentally sensitive logging, and that we'll even subsidize agriculture to continue status quo adverse environmental impacts because we lack the political and economic will to undertake the actions that would significantly move the needle toward salmonid recovery. Society wants to hear that we can have it both ways: massive development that degrades critical salmonid habitat AND recover ESA-listed salmon and steelhead to healthy levels of naturally reproducing fish that support future harvests. It doesn't take all that much analysis to demonstrate how delusional that is, but it's what our society wants.

Therefore, we who are in positions of authority and or jurisdiction react. It's on the menu of things we can do that can make some difference. Well, sometimes it can. Culling some sea lions may make a difference for salmon and steelhead survival, or it might just be a game of whack-a-mole. I think we have to try it to know for sure.
 

Buzzy

Active Member
The sea lions have never taken more salmon than they need. Can't say the same for us; we take too many every year.

If we do need to cull sea lions to protect salmon obstructed by dams (looks like we do), it's not the sea lions' fault. If we don't change our harvest practices, we can kill every pinniped swimming, and the salmon will still go extinct.

In other words, if we want a future with fish and wildlife in it, we need to learn to manage ourselves.
I don't disagree with anything you've stated but that "manage ourselves" is certainly up to interpretation. I think it was @bennysbuddy who said "too many people" - that's a subject that really can really ruffle the dandruff. I happen to agree but there is no solution to population growth.

The dams and their fish ladders provide rich environment for seal lions to harvest fish. Tear ou
Does killing abundant but protected wildlife to help other, more vulnerable protected wildlife represent good, scientific, and ethical wildlife management, or does it represent an attempt to avoid taking action on more important, but politically difficult, causes of a species’ decline at the expense of the targeted animals?

In many of these cases, the animals and birds that agencies chose to cull were not the root cause of the threatened species’ decline.

In Washington and Oregon, wild salmon and steelhead runs declined precipitously in the first half of the twentieth century and their populations have never fully recovered since. Currently, 13 Columbia River basin stocks of wild Pacific salmon and steelhead are listed under the ESA.

The multiple impacts of hydropower dams run by the US Army Corps of Engineers on the Columbia and Snake rivers are among the key causes declining of fish populations. Dams block passage of these fish to and from their riverine spawning and rearing habitat and the Pacific Ocean. At dams where fish passage is not provided, this blockage is permanent. According to the Northwest Power and Conservation Panel, more than 55 percent of the spawning and rearing habitat once available to wild salmon and steelhead in the Columbia River Basin is permanently blocked by dams. At dams like Bonneville, many ocean-bound juvenile fish – sometimes as much as 90 percent of a run – are killed by dam turbines as they swim downstream.

Sea lions weren’t the initial culprits, and even now they are hardly the only, or even the worst, offenders when it comes to salmon mortality.

The Wild Fish Conservancy program, estimates that just over 2 percent of wild Chinook passing through Bonneville dam each year are eaten by sea lions, compared to a 22 percent mortality associated with the Columbia River dam system.
Can you site your sources for some of your data, especially this: "many ocean-bound juvenile fish – sometimes as much as 90 percent of a run – are killed by dam turbines as they swim downstream."?
 

KillerDave

Have camera, will travel...
Last year I went to a presentation by an Army Corp of Engineers PhD that was tasked with monitoring & studying sea lion and avian predation on the Columbia River. As he had extensively studied these animals, he too had mixed feelings as he shared that Bull Sea Lions are pretty impressive animals in their own right, but at the same time their physical prowess and stubborn nature makes it necessary to lethally remove them when they take up stations at the fish ladders. And if you've seen them in person you can just look at them and tell they're stubborn and mostly do what they want.

Some numbers from the presentation; there are approximately 4,000 to 5,000 sea lions in the Lower Columbia. About 7% of this population will migrate upstream, mostly to Bonneville and Willamette Falls. The number of Sea Lions approved for lethal removal is about 4% of the overall population. When caught, branded and relocated to Lincoln City they will make it back to Willamette Falls in about 10 days. He didn’t share how much the relocation process cost and to be honest I don't even want to know. And thru it all, the Sea Lions kept eating a lot of fish.

Pardon the pun, but the issue of lethal Sea Lion removal has been studied to death. It got on my radar back in the 80's and since then every non-lethal method has been tried and failed; failed miserably in fact. I think nearly everyone wishes there was a better way.

Besides Sea Lions, another problem covered in the presentation was the population of Caspian Terns nesting on Sand Island. This tends to fly under the radar but this Tern colony is literally the largest in the world, which is pretty cool. Unfortunately it's estimated they eat as many as 25% of the outmigrating steelhead smolts. Apparently steelhead smolts are "surface oriented" making them an easy target. Non-lethal and unfortunately non-effective control measures have been tried. Controlling the Terns is currently a lost battle as the National Audubon Society does not want them harmed, which is understandable if your favor the Audubon Society but frustrating if you're a fisher-person or fisheries manager. Here's a link for more info: https://www.audubon.org/important-bird-areas/east-sand-island

These are just some of the moving parts & conflicts involved in managing this issue. It's an interesting study in human nature that until the extinction of ESA listed salmon & steelhead runs was looming this action was always mentioned but never implemented.

Essentially, this is about lethal removal of sea lions stationed at the fish ladders. This year the ODFW did this at Willamette Falls and probably saved the upper Willamette tributary steelhead from extinction. The positive results were instantaneous. That said, I understand the desire to be kind to animals and that “letting nature take care of itself” feels right even when its not working. The fact remains natural world is predatory and to conserve one species you need to feed them with another.
 

Dr. Magill

Active Member
I wish that this action was approved when the sea lions were decimating the Lake Washington steelhead returns 30 years ago. They were trapping, relocating and even produced a fake Orca to dissuade this marine mammal assault.

All actions were laughed at as this was a cute problem with Hershel the friendly sea lion.

I would have taken care of this problem immediately with my 30.06 and bought my own shells.

Steelhead runs on both the Sammamish and Cedar Rivers are a memory. But guess what, there are more sea lions than ever.

I prefer steelhead.
Culling those fuckers was a good idea
Staring with Herschel
Relocation was a joke
 

Shad

Active Member
i suggest you scroll up and read Rob's succinct post, says it all.


I said NOTHING about culling humans (nor do I have an interest in doing so). I agree with you and Rob on that one. By "managing ourselves," I was referring to changing our behavior of perennial overharvest. Might still have to cull some pinnipeds, but at least we'd be more justified in doing so.
 

jasmillo

WFF Supporter
Have you ever seen those pigs in the lower Duwamish? I have watched one sea lion in 5 minutes rip the bellies out 8-10 pink salmon only seeming to care for it after the first bite than going to get another one.

Our harvesting monitoring techniques have gotten better and more conservative over the years yet we are still human and greed always tips the scale. However, sealions do not have a complex enough brain to understand wildlife management or moral dilemmas. So humans and sealions cannot be compared very well. But to say they never "take more salmon than they need" is not exactly how I would put it. Nearly all California sealions in the Puget Sound are young males unable to find a mate down in Cali so up they come in search of our salmon and docks to lay on. I suspect warmer ocean currents in recent years also aid in their thought to migrate.

They're currently federally protected but they need to be seriously managed. The state has their hands tied till everyone is on board with a plan to manage. Thats one of the serious drawbacks of dealing with state/federal/tribal agreements and policy.

Once humans have altered the ecosystem there becomes more and more things to manage. Its like a boat that's springing holes but they've ran out of flex seal to cover the new holes. If someone were to hand them another roll of flex tape some people may have reservations about it but at the end of the day it must be done to at least try and slow the sinking.

Jakob

Or maybe you think about designing a new boat....

Even though folks like me having been playing devils advocate on this thread, I think most are in agreement there needs to be management at the dams at this point. Short of the dams coming down which is not realistic, it is probably our only solution for those populations of fish.

My point is let’s not be so myopic when thinking about this topic. Nothing gets fisherman more fired up about salmon and steelhead stocks than pinnipeds. Not discussions about commercial fishing, tribal netting, recreational fishing, urban sprawl, human caused changes to ocean conditions, habitat destruction, etc., etc., etc.

It is a non impactful to us (no change in behavior required) solution, with visible results (makes us feel good immediately) that in the whole scheme of things will be minimally impactful - i.e. impactful to Columbia River and tribs fish but not so much for the thousands of other watersheds with struggling fish populations.

Unfortunately, a needed solution for that small corner of the world. And yes I say unfortunately emphatically. Not because this is a cute sea mammal but because it has come to this...and only this at this point.

We cannot run back time but we have sent a man to the moon. I think there are real options out there that would have a much bigger impact. It will take sacrifice on the part of humans to make them happen though. Not sure as a species, as bright as we are, that we would be able to make them. Hopefully I’m wrong.
 

gt

Active Member
I said NOTHING about culling humans (nor do I have an interest in doing so). I agree with you and Rob on that one. By "managing ourselves," I was referring to changing our behavior of perennial overharvest. Might still have to cull some pinnipeds, but at least we'd be more justified in doing so.
yep, i managed myself back in the 80s when the central OR salmon stocks collapsed and stopped fishing. i sold my custom designed boat of a life time 2 years ago and stopped salmon fishing in the strait, same story. having met all of my steelhead goals, i stopped fishing for them a decade ago. so personal choices are important and each of us is responsible for looking at the situation and making up our own mind as to how to proceed. do i think killing pinnipeds is awful?? not in the least, what needs to be done, needs to be done! The explosion of their population is a good indication that the marine mammal protection worked far too well in unanticipated ways.
 

girlfisher

Active Member
I don't disagree with anything you've stated but that "manage ourselves" is certainly up to interpretation. I think it was @bennysbuddy who said "too many people" - that's a subject that really can really ruffle the dandruff. I happen to agree but there is no solution to population growth.

The dams and their fish ladders provide rich environment for seal lions to harvest fish. Tear ou

Can you site your sources for some of your data, especially this: "many ocean-bound juvenile fish – sometimes as much as 90 percent of a run – are killed by dam turbines as they swim downstream."?
Northwest Power and Conservation Council
 

Shad

Active Member
Have you ever seen those pigs in the lower Duwamish? I have watched one sea lion in 5 minutes rip the bellies out 8-10 pink salmon only seeming to care for it after the first bite than going to get another one.

Our harvesting monitoring techniques have gotten better and more conservative over the years yet we are still human and greed always tips the scale. However, sealions do not have a complex enough brain to understand wildlife management or moral dilemmas. So humans and sealions cannot be compared very well. But to say they never "take more salmon than they need" is not exactly how I would put it. Nearly all California sealions in the Puget Sound are young males unable to find a mate down in Cali so up they come in search of our salmon and docks to lay on. I suspect warmer ocean currents in recent years also aid in their thought to migrate.

They're currently federally protected but they need to be seriously managed. The state has their hands tied till everyone is on board with a plan to manage. Thats one of the serious drawbacks of dealing with state/federal/tribal agreements and policy.

Once humans have altered the ecosystem there becomes more and more things to manage. Its like a boat that's springing holes but they've ran out of flex seal to cover the new holes. If someone were to hand them another roll of flex tape some people may have reservations about it but at the end of the day it must be done to at least try and slow the sinking.

Jakob
Whoa there... I know the present situation is unsustainable and we're at a point where something needs to be done. Just pointing out (as you acknowledged) that it wasn't the sea lions that screwed up the balance of the entire ecosystem. That would be us. Yet they will pay. Humans are real shit when it comes to sharing the planet.

What do you think, Jakob? If we reduced ocean salmon quotas by 20%, would the sea lions seem such a problem? Considering that much less than 20% make it back to the rivers now (maybe less than 10%), you're gonna be looking at 2 to 3 times the salmon in every river that has them. The sea lions can't eat more than they already do. You reckon that leaves enough for us? I do.

There are far more ethical (and effective) measures we can take to return more salmon to gravel, but they all carry financial consequences for someone, so....

It's bullshit. Just sayin.
 

Buzzy

Active Member
My bad on asking for the source of your data. I was hoping that you might actually have a document with references to how this "90%" mortality was determined. Was this mortality based on turbine passage, spillway passage, avian predation, GBT, etc? How was the data determined: by PIT-tags, radio-tags, acoustic tags or some other methodology? I tried to find some document in NPCC's site but frankly didn't feel like getting bogged down. I just don't believe the 90% bit.
 

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