Drone footage captures a sea lion tearing apart a salmon in Oregon’s Willamette River.
The necessity of predator management to control populations of sea lions, cormorants and pikeminnow in the Columbia River comes with its fair share of criticism, but serves a purpose in protecting wild stocks of salmon and steelhead that are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
Conflicting policies from the Marine Mammal Act tend to make things difficult to carry out effective methods of removing pinnipeds like Sea Lions and Seals from the river.
However, this video shows how sea lions have begun to travel upriver with the purpose of exploiting man-made obstacles to fish passage. Willamette Falls, the location where this was filmed, is roughly 25 miles from the Columbia River. The confluence of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers is nearly 150 miles from the ocean.
“These sea lions have turned into river lions. They’re eating possibly up to 50-60 percent of our salmon run on the Willamette and on the Columbia and nothing is being done about it. I don’t know why. It just befuddles me.”
Taylor has been fishing the Oregon City area for over 20 years and watched the population of Sea Lions grow, as well as become more and more accustomed to anglers.
While anglers are required to release ESA-listed wild spring chinook, sea lions watch for nets flying and chase down fish while they’re hooked up, often stealing a catch that would have otherwise been safely released. Even the catches that get released are often tired and disoriented, making easy prey for sea lions that habitually exploit anglers for an easy meal.