An attempt was made to scare hundreds of sea lions from the docks in Port of Astoria, Oregon using a life-size fiberglass orca. That attempt went, well, belly up.
Reminiscent of Ace Ventura and his mechanical rhino, a man-operated 32-foot fiberglass orca was dispatched in to the waters of the East End Mooring Basin with the hopes of scaring away hundreds of sea lions that have taken up residence on the surrounding docks. Jim Knight, Port of Astoria’s executive director, oversaw the event.
Protected by the Marina Mammal Protection Act, the areas’ sea lion population has dramatically increased over the past few years and are causing problems for commercial fishermen. They take over the docks, causing damage and preventing boaters from using them, and eat an abundance of salmon as well.
Prior to the fake whale, other tactics for scaring the sea lions included chicken wire and colorful beach balls tied to the docks.
So, with John Wifler at the helm, the orca made its way towards the sea lions to carry out its objective. All was going according to plan as the sea lions went “deathly silent” when they spotted it. Unfortunately, no one planned on a cargo ship coming by, waking the orca and causing it to keel over as it was swamped.
In an unlucky turn of events, the mission (and orca) was aborted as a crew from the port hurried out to rescue Wifler before he drowned. With that, the whale went belly up, literally, and was brought back to the docks to await repair.
Despite the dramatic ending to this failed endeavor, Knight deemed it a “learning experience” adding, “You can’t make this stuff up.”
I’d imagine the orca’s operator might find it is a little more serious than a “learning experience,” given his precarious position, but it seems they made a valiant effort. According to Knight, there were close to 300 fewer sea lions at the docks Thursday night compared with earlier that morning.
Something tells me the sea lions aren’t too worried about this big, scary, belly-up orca in their waters. They might be worn out from laughing…
All photos via The Guardian